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Inmate has shed gang ties, his attorney says

Michael Gallegos has shed the gang ties that led to his involvement last fall in a high-speed chase and shootout with a West Valley police officer, his defense attorney said Friday in 3rd District Court.

Severing his gang ties has cost him, though, attorney Ed Wall said. His spurned gang members at the Utah State Prison cut off his ear, Wall said.Judge Leslie A. Lewis was partly sympathetic, ordering the two sentences she gave Gallegos to run concurrently. But the zero-to-five-year terms will run consecutively to an unrelated one-to-15-year term Gallegos is serving.

Gallegos pleaded guilty to driving a stolen vehicle and fleeing from police for his part in the Nov. 30 car chase and a resulting eight-hour standoff in West Valley.

According to police, West Valley police officer Todd Gray attempted a traffic stop on the car Gallegos, 22, was driving on 4400 South near 3200 West. Gallegos didn't stop, and a chase ensued.

During the chase, co-defendant Gaulifuga Finai, 19, pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and fired at Gray several times, spraying his patrol car with pellets. Gray was not hit, but investigators found two dozen pellet hits on the car, some of them in the driver's area.

The two men bailed out of the stolen car on a dead-end street, and Finai, now armed with a 9mm pistol, shot at Gray several times before being captured near 3600 West and 4300 South.

Gallegos fled into a nearby house and holed up there for eight hours before negotiators were able to get him and several other people to come out.

Wall said Gallegos, who was out on parole at the time, had been doing heroin and methamphetamines for three or four days before the incident. He also said that by fleeing, Gallegos may have saved Gray's life.

When they first pulled over after Gray began his traffic stop, Finai picked up the 12-gauge shotgun and told Gallegos he was going to "cap the cop," Wall said. By pulling away and then swerving while fleeing, Gallegos prevented Finai from aiming at the pursuing patrol car, Wall said.

But prosecutor Vincent Meister disagreed with that scenario, saying Gallegos was maneuvering the car so Finai could get a better shot at Gray. He argued for consecutive sentences, pointing out Gallegos's use of drugs, weapons possession, and possession of a stolen car, all while he was on parole.

And, Meister said, Gallegos has shown no remorse for his actions that night.

Gallegos told the judge that severing his gang ties is not easy. "I've just decided to change," he told the judge. "It ain't going to be easy, but I'm trying."

Lewis in September sentenced Finai to five years to life in prison for his role in shooting at the officer, adding on a five-year firearm enhancement. Finai pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony.