The armed suspect accused of firing multiple shots in downtown Moab earlier this month is in custody, and no one was injured when he reportedly brandished his weapon on Main Street, and at Club Rio.
But it’s easy for Moab City Police Chief Jim Winder to envision what could have happened if Moab City Police Officer Thomas Talbert and Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Austin Brewer hadn’t been there to intervene as quickly as they did on Aug. 1.
On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the chief presented the two men with commendations in recognition of their service and bravery while apprehending a man whom Winder described as “armed and dangerous.” Their actions, along with those of others who responded to a report on the incident, “unquestionably” prevented the loss of life or injury to the responding officers, the suspect and citizens at the scene, he said.
“It is evident that had these individuals not taken the action they did on that night, we would have had a much more serious situation,” Winder told a packed audience at the Moab City Council’s meeting.
Grand County Sheriff Steve White said the combined and coordinated response to the incident underscores the quality of the men and women in law enforcement who serve the city and county.
“I think this just shows you the caliber of law enforcement that you have in this community,” he said.
Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Ty Roberts, whose agency also responded to the Aug. 1 incident, seconded White.
“On behalf of the State of Utah and the badge that we wear, it does truly … show the professionalism and their courage,” Roberts said. “It doesn’t matter the badge or the patch … This is a community of law enforcement professionals.”
After suspect Patrick Duane Trujillo was apprehended, the Grand County Attorney’s Office charged him with four second-degree felonies.
Trujillo faces two counts of assault against a peace officer with weapon or force, as well as using a concealed weapon in the commission of a violent felony and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. He also stands accused of third-degree felony possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, and felony discharge of a firearm, along with numerous misdemeanor offenses.
If he’s convicted of all charges, he could go to prison for anywhere from four to 70 years, and spend more than three years in jail.
The 32-year-old man, who has ties to Denver and Moab, waived his right to a preliminary hearing during a brief appearance in 7th District Court on Tuesday, Aug. 15. In court proceedings that lasted for less than four minutes, Trujillo had little to say, giving one- to three-word responses to questions from 7th District Judge Lyle R. Anderson.
He is now scheduled to enter a plea on Tuesday, Aug. 29. Under the law, he is presumed to be innocent unless or until a court convicts him of any charges.
Winder outlines events leading up to suspect’s arrest
Dispatchers first received a call at about 10:15 p.m. on Aug. 1 from someone who reported that a man who was walking down the Main Street sidewalk was firing multiple rounds from a semi-automatic pistol.
“That caused a great deal of consternation, to say the very least,” Winder said.
Individuals who wondered what was happening approached Trujillo, and he reportedly identified himself as a police officer. According to Winder, Trujillo told the inquisitive passers-by that he was clearing his weapon, although they were skeptical of his claims.
“Luckily, the citizens of this community did not buy that particular story and immediately notified law enforcement,” Winder said.
According to Winder, dispatch records indicate that officers from the Moab City Police Department and Grand County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene within two minutes of the initial call. When they arrived, witnesses told them that the suspect had left the location near Zax Restaurant and had moved on to Club Rio on 100 West.
Video surveillance tapes reportedly show him entering the club, dressed in black and wearing a backpack. Almost immediately, Winder said, the suspect walked up to two individuals at the bar and started a verbal confrontation with them.
“The bar patrons were quite concerned and nervous – got into a little bit of a verbal altercation – (and) the individual brandished a firearm inside of the bar and threatened them,” Winder said.
At that moment, Winder said, Talbert and Brewer entered the picture.
Video surveillance from the bar shows that Brewer approached the suspect and immediately took a position of cover, protecting the bar patrons. He began to question Trujillo, who was initially evasive, according to Winder.
“During the course of that questioning, the individual became a little furtive or almost combative,” he said.
Brewer immediately went “hands-on” with the suspect, Winder said, and when Talbert saw the situation, he moved to grasp the suspect. Video footage shows that Talbert and Brewer then wrestled Trujillo to the floor.
“A very interesting piece of the video demonstrates that patrons inside the bar knew that the individual was in possession of a firearm,” Winder said. “One individual was seen in the video signaling to the other bar patrons, ‘Look out – he’s got a gun.’”
Instead of spreading out or moving away from the scene, though, Winder said that witnesses took out their smartphone cameras and began to photograph everything that was happening around them. While they were doing so, Winder said, Trujillo was able to get his firearm out, and he then fired a round inside the bar.
Brewer – who had not been identified in recent press releases from the department – reached down and grabbed the weapon, placing his hand in between the slide of the firearm and preventing it from discharging a second time.
As the events unfolded, Utah Highway Patrol troopers raced to the scene, along with additional sheriff’s deputies and Moab City Police officers.
Dispatch records and video surveillance from the scene indicate that within three minutes of the first encounter, other officers were within sight of the bar and began to assist their counterparts inside.
The suspect was taken into custody using what Winder called a “significant amount of manpower.”
“He was very combative, very agitated,” he said.
Once he was in custody, Winder said, officers found other weapons inside the suspect’s backpack.
“It takes a team effort”
Winder said it’s his impression that many people in rural communities erroneously believe that such situations can never happen where they live.
“That’s a mistake,” he said. “It’s a mistake that can cost people their lives.”
In places like Moab, Winder said that officers often work alone, or with little backup, and they find themselves confronting similar kinds of situations on a regular basis.
In this case, he said, Brewer and Talbert had help from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office communications staff, as well as Moab City Police Officer Monty Risenhoover, Grand County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Black, Grand County Sheriff’s Sgt. Levi Mallory, Moab City Police Cpl. Aaron Woodard, Moab City Police Officer Braydon Palmer and Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Jarom Olsen.
“The actions of (Brewer and Talbert) are certainly meritorious, and in my opinion, heroic, but it’s important to remember that their actions would have been even more difficult without a team,” Winder said.
The support from White and his deputies was also essential, he said.
“We simply could not do our jobs without the sheriff’s office and the support of the sheriff himself,” he said.
For his part, White hailed the level of cooperation among local law enforcement agencies.
“I agree with what Chief Winder said: It takes a team effort,” White said. “I’m excited about where things are going.”
“We enjoy working with each other, and we will continue to serve this community moving forward,” he said.
Alleged gunman set to enter plea on Aug. 29
It is evident that had these individuals not taken the action they did on that night, we would have had a much more serious situation.