Michael Hooser says his big brother started his law enforcement career later in life as an unpaid volunteer, doing many of the duties he was later officially sworn to do.

“It was a decision he made. Something he wanted to do and something that he loved to do,” Hooser said of his brother’s late career choice.

Bill Hooser started his law enforcement career eight years ago with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office in New Mexico. In 2017, he returned to his native Utah and became a police officer with the Santaquin Police Department. In February, Hooser, 50, was promoted to the rank of sergeant.

On Sunday, while assisting a Utah Highway Patrol trooper with a traffic stop involving a semitruck and 53-foot trailer, Hooser was killed when police say the semi driver rammed into both his police car and the trooper’s vehicle and also hit Hooser.

“The suspect made a U-turn abruptly, deliberately hitting officers and intentionally hitting both vehicles. He also struck the Santaquin officer, causing fatal injuries,” said Spanish Fork Police Lt. Cory Slaymaker.

Santaquin Police Sgt. Bill Hooser was struck and killed by a semitruck driver on Sunday. | GoFundMe

On Monday, Santaquin police shared more details into Hooser’s tragic weekend death, while law enforcement and fire crews from across Salt Lake County and Utah County honored their fallen brother as his body was returned from the medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville back to his hometown.

Just before 6 a.m. Sunday, emergency dispatchers in Richfield received a report of a man standing on the back of a semitrailer near Levan, Juab County, on I-15, Slaymaker said. A trooper spotted the semi in Santaquin, where it was pulled over and Hooser went to assist. The semi stopped. But at some point during their interaction with the driver, Michael Aaron Jayne, 42, the truck made a U-turn and hit and killed Hooser, according to investigators.

“We are grateful today to be able to report that our trooper involved in this incident was unharmed. At the same time, we are devastated and our hearts our broken because of the loss of an incredible hero who responded to the incident to help our trooper in his challenging situation,” Col. Michael Rapich, head of the Utah Highway Patrol, said Monday.

After hitting Hooser and the two police vehicles, Jayne got out of his semitruck and ran to a nearby convenience store where he stole another semitruck, Slaymaker said. Investigators believe Jayne drove that semi to Mona where he abandoned it and then stole a pickup truck. He then drove to Mt. Pleasant, Sanpete County, where he allegedly stole a second pickup. That vehicle was later spotted in Vernal on U.S. 40, where Jayne attempted to flee from officers at “extremely high speeds” and crashed about 11:20 a.m., Slaymaker said.

As of Monday afternoon, Jayne remained in a local hospital with undisclosed injuries not considered to be life-threatening.

Procession back home

A dozen officers stood at salute on the I-15 overpass at 10600 South in Sandy, the red and blue lights of their cruisers reflected against the rain-soaked pavement Monday, as a mileslong procession carried the body of fallen Hooser from the medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville south to Santaquin.

The morning’s downpour subsided as the procession approached along its 60-mile journey to Santaquin. One woman unfurled an American flag over the interstate as several other onlookers solemnly observed the hundreds of police cruisers and ambulances deliberately making their way down the center of the highway.

Even with the lanes cleared of traffic, the spectacle took nearly nine minutes as officers from jurisdictions across the Wasatch Front — led by officers from Santaquin — escorted Hooser.

Abby and Kaylie Hansen, sisters and family friends of Hooser, were among those who braved the wind, rain and near-freezing temperatures in Sandy to pay tribute to Hooser.

“It’s a lot, but knowing what field he was in, we’re just proud that he was able to put himself on the line like this and couldn’t be more proud to know this man and call him part of my family,” Abby Hansen said, adding that her mother is “best friends” with Hooser’s sister. “It just shows how much support is behind his field and his family and his community.”

She said Hooser will be remembered as a “great man,” and said she hopes people will remember to support police officers “because they sacrifice every day.”

“He was an honest man,” she added. “He’s a family man and he’s going to be missed. He was goofy, he was funny, and it’s going to be a tough one to get over.”

Although they didn’t have a direct connection to Hooser, about a dozen others showed up to honor him and offer support.

A GoFundMe* account has been set up to help the late officer’s family.

The sergeant is survived by his wife a wife of 29-years, their two daughters — the youngest of whom is to be married soon — and one grandchild.

Mike Hooser says he was “truly humbled” as he drove to Utah from Wyoming on Monday and saw all the emergency responders on the overpasseses and the residents of Santaquin lining the street.

“As I drove down the road, I was truly humbled by the state of Utah. I drove in from Wyoming this morning, and the entire way I could see the love and support from Utah,” he said.

Hooser also read a statement Monday on behalf of the family. He said they are all “devastated by the loss,” calling it a “such a senseless loss that is so hard for not just our family but extended law enforcement family and the community.

“Although nothing could never make up the loss we feel, we take solace knowing that Bill died a hero,” he said before taking an extended pause to collect himself. “Doing the job that he loved, serving people he loved, this community, his brothers and sisters in law enforcement, and the community he called home.”

Santaquin Police Chief Rod Hurst on Monday also thanked his fellow law enforcers, many of whom stood with him as he addressed the media, all with black bands over their badges.

“This are no words to express the gratitude that I have from the governor all the way to the local city officials, to the firefighters to the police officers ... (and) specifically the chiefs of Utah County and the sheriff. They’ve been instrumental in helping us through this,” he said.

“I know everybody says this when an officer gets killed, but Sgt. Hooser was one of those guys who was really squared away. He was by the book, right and wrong. Even had the flat top haircut to go along with it. He was a top notch officer. It’s going to be hard to replace him.”

Hurst then recited a passage from the Old Testament of the Bible, Isiah chapter 6, verse 8.

“Then I head the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Who shall I send? And who will go for us?’ Then said I, ‘Hear I am. Send me.’ In a nutshell, that describes Sgt. Hooser,” he said.

Slaymaker said the investigation into everything that transpired on Sunday is still “very active.” As of Monday afternoon, no criminal charges had been filed.

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