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Homeowner was unaware intruder had gun until shots were fired, police say

EAST MILLCREEK — The first time Russell Jacobs knew Jesse Lyle Bruner was carrying a sawed-off shotgun was when the man turned to face him and pulled the trigger.

On Friday, more than 24 hours after a shootout between two members of an East Millcreek neighborhood, Unified police released more information about the deadly confrontation.

Bruner, 34, and "Rusty" Jacobs, 47, both died after shooting each other at very close range about 2 a.m. Thursday near 3700 South and 3100 East.

The lethal events began when Bruner tried to kick in Jacobs' front door. Unified Police Lt. Lex Bell said investigators believe Jacobs' house was chosen for an unknown reason, completely at random.

"It could have been any house on that street," he said.

Jacobs, a father of four, was in the house asleep, with his wife Jana and his 18-year-old son Josh. The three were the only ones home at the time, police said.

"Mr. Jacobs armed himself with a .45 and a flashlight and ran to the front door to see who was trying to break in. When the pounding on the door stopped, Mr. Jacobs, his wife and his 18-year-old son went outside to see if it was a prank but found no one in their yard. When they returned to their front door, they noticed shoe prints on the door where someone had tried to kick it in," Bell said.

Jacobs' wife called 911 to report the incident.

Jacobs then went back into his house, got dressed and got his .357 handgun, "because he trusted the .357 more, and he was concerned there might be a threat to his family and not a prank. Once dressed, Mr. Jacobs opened the front door to look around the yard again with the flashlight in his hand," Bell said.

After several minutes of searching his yard, Bruner appeared and started walking toward Jacobs, "feigning an injury to his leg and asking to come inside," the lieutenant said.

Investigators speculated Friday that Bruner was holding his single-shot, sawed-off shotgun, which measured just under 2 feet, to his side and was pretending he had an injured leg to conceal it.


Believing he was the man who just attempted to kick in his door, Jacobs confronted Bruner to protect his family, according to Bell.

Recently, leaders in Jacobs' LDS ward had warned neighbors about burglaries in the area, Bell said. They believed that two homeless men, one of them being Bruner, were responsible. As of Friday, police could not confirm whether Bruner was responsible for any recent car or home burglaries in the area.

Jacobs was "concerned for the rest of the neighborhood," the lieutenant said. "Mr. Jacobs followed Mr. Bruner as he walked north in the street, pointing a flashlight at him."

About four houses down the block, Jacobs said something to Bruner to the effect that he knew who he was, according to Bell. Bruner responded by saying something similar to, "So what if I am?"

Just as he said that, Bell said, Bruner fired his shotgun.

"The blast hit Mr. Jacobs’ outstretched left hand and flashlight first and then went into his chest. Mr. Jacobs then returned fire, shooting four shots at Mr. Bruner. Mr. Bruner was hit once through his arm and into his chest. Two shots went through his clothing in the stomach area but did not hit his body, and the fourth shot missed entirely," he said.

Jacobs' son, who had followed his father into the street, witnessed both shootings.

Family and neighbors rushed outside and attempted life-saving first aid for both men. One of the first neighbors who rushed outside is a doctor. Another is a retired federal agent. The doctor looked at both men, but when he couldn't find a pulse on Bruner, he focused his attention on Jacobs, Bell said.

A second 911 call was placed after the shots were fired. Officers found Bruner dead in the street and Jacobs several feet away on the side of the road in extremely critical condition. Despite life-saving efforts by paramedics, Jacobs was pronounced dead at the scene.

When investigators searched Bruner's body, they found he was armed with "two large butcher knives tucked in his pants and a third smaller knife clipped to his pants" in addition to the shotgun, Bell said.

"These two butcher knives were so large and positioned in such a way that Mr. Bruner would not have been able to run because he would have cut or stabbed himself in the legs. It also appears he tried to reload the shotgun after shooting Mr. Jacobs but was stopped short after being shot," he said.

Family speaks

Friday, family members remembered Jacobs on Friday as both a family man and a man who was very involved in his community.

"He's the type of guy who had a smile on all times. (Jacobs and his wife) loved to throw parties at their house and have the neighbors over. Rusty was great with the children. And he was by his wife Jana's side at all times, helping her with whatever he needed," said Brian Stolk, Jacobs' nephew.

Stolk said once a month, Jacobs would perform service projects around the neighborhood and take his four children — Shawn, Keeva, Julie and Josh — with him.

"He loved his community, he loved his neighbors. He was involved with every single person around him," Stolk said.

It was because of his father, Stock said, that Josh Jacobs knew how to change the oil in a car or use a chainsaw.

"He knows how to do all of these things because of his father and who he was, and he wanted to help people gain that knowledge," he said.

Jacobs also held several church callings at his LDS ward, Stolk said, and was the leader over the young men at one time. Because he was known by so many teens in the neighborhood, crisis counselors were sent Thursday to nearby Skyline High School.

"He was a wonderful person. He was a great example for his children. He was always there for his wife. He was wonderful in the community," added Lyne Miller, Rusty Jacobs' cousin.

Kallie Stolk, a niece, said Jacobs and his wife were the "party people" for both their family and the neighborhood, always having the swimming pool or volleyball court ready to go, and always hosting the neighborhood block party or the Fourth of July celebration. She said his loss is as hard on the neighborhood as it is on the family.

An account to help Jacob's children has been set up at all Zions Bank locations under the Russell Jacobs account.

Jacobs worked as a wealth management adviser and was a graduate of the University of Utah's David Eccles School of Business, according to his LinkedIn page. Employees at Cambridge Financial Center in Salt Lake City confirmed Jacobs was an employee.

Friends said Bruner, who has a daughter, worked as a tattoo artist. His criminal history includes convictions for threatening to use a weapon during a fight, forgery, theft and drug possession.


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