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Did blood sugar lead to tragedy?

WHITE CITY — Christopher Joey Tucker, 30, always loved athletics.

His father, Perry Tucker, said his son played almost every sport growing up, with a particular fondness for baseball and football. He played most recently in the Babe Ruth Senior Baseball league, and his favorite two sports teams were the University of Utah and Denver Broncos football teams.

But when the younger Tucker was 15, he was diagnosed with diabetes. It was during that "honeymoon" period, as his father called it, where he wasn't in full control of his diabetes yet, that he missed a lot of school. He also was unable to participate in high school sports.

"That's been rough on him. He missed out on a lot of athletics," Perry Tucker said.

Joey's family believes it was his diabetes that played heavily in his actions Thursday, resulting in his being shot and killed by a Salt Lake City police after he allegedly tried to ram an officer with his truck.

"I talked to him once. He wasn't himself. He was kind of groggy. I think his blood sugar was way high," the father said.

Despite his son's trouble with the law over the past few years with DUI's, Perry Tucker did not believe his son had drunk any alcohol on Thursday.

Police described the younger Tucker as a suicidal suspect who tried to hit a police officer with his vehicle after a chase had just ended and he refused to comply with their commands to surrender.

His family, however, doesn't believe Tucker would have hurt anyone.

"No, I think he was trying to get (the officer) to move out of the way. He did the same thing to me. I had my arm in the window and he kind of coasted away. He never has been a violent kid. I don't know what went on out there," Perry Tucker said. "I don't think he would have hurt anyone."

Tucker said he was "not here to criticize the police." But believes there could have been another way to handle the situation.

Joey Tucker had a 19-month-old daughter with his girlfriend. The two had been arguing recently, and Perry Tucker believed that also contributed to his blood-sugar level being off.

"He wears his feelings on his shirt sleeve. His diabetes kind of got out of control. We kind of thought he was doing OK. But he was still arguing with his girlfriend," he said. "It was like any argument, they say things they shouldn't say. He was in a pretty rough state when I saw him."

Perry Tucker said when his son's blood-sugar got high, "It usually set him off."

When the younger man called his family, he said he had taken some of his mother's sleeping pills, Perry Tucker said.

"He had maybe taken a few. Not many," Perry Tucker said. "Most of my wife's pills are still at my house. He didn't take a whole bottle of them or anything like that."

Tucker had his daughter call police and paramedics as they began to look for his son.

Police say that at about 10:45 a.m., they received a call from the family telling them Joey had taken prescription medication in an attempt to commit suicide.

Just after 11:30 a.m., Tucker was involved in the first of two hit-and-run accidents. Near 2200 W. California Ave, Tucker hit another vehicle with his car. Police did not have any further information to release Friday about that accident. Perry Tucker, who was at the scene, said his son hit the rear fender of another vehicle.

About 10 minutes, later, Tucker was involved in another hit and run accident near 4100 South and 2100 West. Again, no other details about the accident were available Friday.

Perry Tucker said the alleged chase with police did not exceed 25 to 30 mph.

At one point, Joey went to his girlfriend's work near 1500 South and 2450 West. There, fire trucks boxed him in against a guard shack, his father claimed. But they moved out of the way when he threatened to ram them with his truck, Perry said.

The Salt Lake City Fire Department declined comment Friday as to whether that incident actually happened. But spokesman Scott Freitag said if it did happen as the father described, the firefighters would always move out of the way rather than face confrontation.

"They are not the police," he said.

After Joey Tucker drove onto I-80, Salt Lake police and the Utah Highway Patrol attempted to stop his truck by twice attempting a pit maneuver. After bumping the truck's rear panel the second time, causing it to spin out, officers got out of their cars to take Tucker into custody. That's when Tucker attempted to hit an officer with his vehicle, according to police, prompting a Salt Lake officer to open fire.

The officer was placed on standard paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation by the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office.

Salt Lake police declined comment Friday until the investigation is completed.

The family said they too were anxious to see the outcome of the investigation, hoping it would shed more light on what happened.

Friday, the family was busy signing papers at the mortuary and cemetery making funeral arrangements. They preferred to remember their son as the sports-loving boy who also loved the outdoors and taking his daughter with him on camping trips.

"He was a very loving kid. He loved his family," Perry Tucker said.

e-mail: preavy@desnews.com