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Officer looking for truant students shoots, critically injures juvenile in West Valley City

WEST VALLEY CITY — A school district officer looking for truant students shot and wounded a juvenile, who he said tried to run over him, leaving the victim hospitalized in extremely critical condition Tuesday.

The Granite School District police officer, in the first year of his law enforcement career, shot the juvenile about 12:50 p.m. when the young man drove a vehicle at him, according to district spokesman Ben Horsley.

"At one point (the officer) was on the hood," Horsley said.

The officer was doing his regular patrol looking for truant students in the area of 4400 South and 5700 West when he spotted a vehicle with five males inside near Hunter Ridge Park, about half-mile from Hunter High School.

All of the males appeared to be high school-age, he said.

As the officer got out of his car and approached the vehicle, he could smell marijuana coming from the window, according to Horsley. When he continued to walk toward the car, the driver "immediately came at him and attempted to run him over," and the officer landed on the hood of the car.

At some point, the officer pulled out his weapon and fired at least one shot, Horsley said. The driver was struck. The car continued for about 100 yards before going onto the sidewalk and rolling to a stop.

Alexis Guerrero, who lives in the neighborhood, witnessed the shooting out her front window after hearing what sounded like an argument outside. In the street, she saw a car charge toward a police officer.

"The cop ended up getting hit by the car which caused him to roll and hit the ground," Guerrero said.

Guerrero rushed from her house to help, finding the driver of the car had been shot and four passengers who had been in the car with him were fleeing the scene through Guerrero's back yard.

"There was blood everywhere but it was hard for me to see where he had actually been shot," she said.

The frightening scene left Guerrero shocked and overwhelmed, she said.

The driver was transported to a local hospital in extremely critical condition following the shooting. His name and age were not released Tuesday, but Horsley confirmed he is not enrolled in school.

The four other males in the vehicle ran off. Two of them, both juveniles, were later located and questioned. One is not enrolled in school, Horsley said, while the other is enrolled in Granite District's STEP Program, an alternative program for students who have violated safe school policy and are no longer allowed to attend a traditional school environment.

Police were still looking for the other two males Tuesday evening.

The officer was treated at a local hospital for a head wound, cuts and other minor injuries, Horsley said. He was released later in the afternoon.

A Granite police officer responding to truant students near a park is typical, Horsley said, but an officer having to use his gun is highly unusual for the department. He said it has been "many years" since the Granite department had an officer-involved shooting before Tuesday.

The incident will be investigated by the Salt Lake Police Department.

Contributing: Nicole Vowell