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Police looking for man who assaulted officer find ‘career criminal’ instead

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A Unified police car is parked at the Taylorsville Precinct on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

TAYLORSVILLE — A man with a lengthy criminal history was arrested Thursday after police say he recklessly fled from officers and put other lives in danger.

Unified police spotted a vehicle on Wednesday night that matched the description of a car driven by a man wanted for assaulting a Saratoga Springs police officer. Police began following the vehicle, but the driver then fled from them.

“Based on the totality of the circumstances, (police) believed this was the suspect vehicle wanted by Saratoga Springs,” Unified Police Sgt. Melody Cutler said.

Police later learned that the car was actually being driven by Lonny Shenandoah Archuletta, 54, who is referred to in a police affidavit as a career criminal.

“Lonny began driving at high rates of speed in excess of 70 mph on a 35 mph road. Lonny then drove into oncoming traffic, posing a serious danger to all motoring public,” according to the affidavit.

Due to the danger to the public, police terminated their pursuit, but a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter was called to follow Archuletta from the air.

“Once helicopter support was overhead, tire deflation devices — spikes — were deployed. Lonny again crossed into oncoming traffic and drove from 7800 South to 7200 South in and out of oncoming lanes,” the affidavit states.

At 6200 S. Redwood Road, police say the vehicle slowed down due to the tires being flat. Archuletta stopped at a residence near 1400 West and 6200 South and ran inside, along with two passengers, according to the affidavit.

After police called into the house for several minutes, other people in the house started coming out.

When Archuletta finally came to the door, he was sitting in a wheelchair that belongs to his wife, who is disabled, and “feigned disability trying to avoid arrest,” Cutler said.

Because he took the wheelchair from his wife, officers entered the home to make sure she was OK. Once inside, they spotted drug paraphernalia and obtained a search warrant for the rest of the house, said Cutler.

“The search resulted in the seizure of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia,” she said. “A representative from the Salt Lake County Health Department responded and closed the home due to methamphetamine contamination.”

According to court records, Archuletta was charged with drug distribution in May 2019 and had a warrant out for his arrest on Thursday for not showing up to court.

“Lonny is a career criminal and poses a significant danger to the public by his willingness to flee from police and drive into oncoming traffic, causing a potential catastrophic accident that could seriously injure or end someone’s life,” police noted in the affidavit.

He was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of failing to stop at the command of police.

Police say there is no connection between Archuletta and the man wanted for assaulting a police officer other than they are known to visit the same apartment complex.