Driver of tractor-trailer fled, then turned and struck, killing Santaquin police officer, police say

Salem Police Chief Brad James, left, puts his arm around Santaquin Police Sgt. Mike Wall during a press conference Sunday after a Santaquin police officer was hit by a vehicle and killed.

SANTAQUIN — Santaquin Police Lt. Mike Wall appeared to have difficulty speaking as he recalled notification early Sunday that an officer in his department had been killed in the line of duty.

“Our entire department is hurt, as well as the officer’s family,” he said, his voice cracking as officers surrounded him, one supporting him with his arms around him.

“Due to the senseless act of one individual, members of our family will miss their father as their wedding approaches. But I can assure you that as a police department, we will stand up, and we’ll be there, and we’re one family,” Wall said.

The lieutenant thanked members of the community who helped during this tragic situation.

Just before 6 a.m., the Richfield office of the Utah Highway Patrol received a call about a person standing in the back of a tractor-trailer while it was traveling north, Spanish Fork police said in a press release. Around 6:30 a.m., the tractor-trailer was located by a Santaquin police officer and a UHP officer, who conducted a traffic stop.

“During the traffic stop, the driver of the tractor-trailer fled and drove north a short distance before turning around and driving off in the wrong direction toward the Santaquin officer as well as the UHP trooper,” said Spanish Fork Police Lt. Cory Slaymaker. The tractor-trailer then struck the Santaquin officer and his vehicle, as well as the officer’s vehicle.

The Santaquin police officer died at the scene. His name has not yet been released.

Michael Aaron Jayne, 42 (Photo: Utah Department of Public Safety)

The tractor-trailer driver fled and police believe he then stole several vehicles and drove several hundred miles before Gov. Spencer Cox announced on social media that he had been captured around 11 h 40 in Vernal. During the manhunt, residents in several towns were asked to shelter in place while officers searched for the suspected driver, Michael Aaron Jayne, 42, who police said was believed to be ” armed and dangerous.

“A tragic day in the history of our state”

Provo Police Chief Troy Beebe announced a procession in the officer’s honor as soon as the investigation concluded. The motorcade traveled along I-15 from Santaquin to the medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville. Beebe invited community members to pay their respects to the officer along this route.

Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson later shared a photo on social media of a line of cars parked along a highway overpass and a woman standing in the road holding an American flag. Videos of the procession showed dozens of motorcycles and police cars crisscrossing I-15 with their blue and red lights reflecting on the wet road.

“Every overpass in south Utah County looks like this. People are lining up to pay their respects to the @SantaquinCity police officer killed in the line of duty this morning as his ambulance and countless vehicles emergency were heading north on I 15,” Henderson said.

“Today was a tragic day in our state’s history,” Cox said at a news conference Sunday evening, noting that last week an annual event was held at the state Capitol in the honor of fallen officers in Utah. “Tragically, we will add another name to this memorial. We are fortunate to live in a country and a state where we have so many law enforcement officers. Our hearts are broken and our thoughts, our Prayers go out to the family, the widow of this hero and his children and all those affected by this terrible and totally unnecessary tragedy.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Cameron Roden speaks at a news conference after a Santaquin police officer was struck by a vehicle and killed Sunday at Santaquin City Hall. (Photo: Megan Nielsen, Deseret News)

He thanked all of the state’s law enforcement officers, including those who searched for the man “and were able to so quickly locate someone who had already traveled hundreds of miles and make sure no one no one else has been harmed by this perverse and reckless individual. I am grateful to those who carried on knowing their lives would be in danger from someone who had killed before and would certainly kill again. I’m just grateful that we have this caliber of people willing to step up and make a huge difference,” the governor said.

Hundreds of law enforcement and other first responders gathered for the officers’ procession to the medical examiner’s office, Cox noted. Thousands of residents all showed up and he said they would continue to “pay their respects.”

The Santaquin Police Department has only 15 members, “and so these tragedies hit even harder in such a small town,” Cox said. “The family is devastated at this time and trying to make sense of all of this, but our Department of Public Safety will be working very closely with the family, the police chief and the mayor as they plan this funeral.”

He asked people across the state to pray for the police officer’s family members.

“Someone made that ultimate sacrifice today,” Cox said.

“Shelter in place” lifted after extensive research

After the officer was hit and the tractor-trailer driver fled, authorities urged residents in surrounding towns to stay home while officers searched for the man. A Payson resident told KSL that he and others were asked to watch the doors of a church where services were in progress while nearby police searched for the driver.

The Utah Department of Public Safety issued an alert Sunday morning saying police were searching for Jayne, described as white with unkempt brown hair, a beard, approximately 6 feet tall and weighing 220 pounds. The alert said the man may have been armed with a stolen firearm and was driving a Ford F-150 extended cab, extended bed truck with a grill.

Jayne was found in Vernal and crashed after a “short chase” and was then taken into custody, Slaymaker said.

I-15 was closed in both directions for several hours in southern Utah County due to the police response. Southbound I-15 reopened in Santaquin just before 11:30 a.m., but the northbound lanes remained closed until about 1:45 p.m., after the fallen Santaquin officer’s car was towed while rain was falling on the highway and authorities continued to divert cars heading north. -15. Shortly after, the semi-trailer was towed off the highway.

Santaquin Mayor Dan Olsen thanked the community and neighboring police chiefs for their help in the response. He said it was a difficult day for their close-knit and caring community.

“I want to assure the community that we have the best; we have incredible people serving this community,” he said.

Reports on driver’s past incidents with police

In 2012, a man who appears to be the same person – then 30-year-old Michael Aaron Jayne, who appears similar in photos – led police on a high-speed chase in Barton County, Kansas, while he was wanted for probation violations, the Great Bend Tribune reported. He had been convicted of assaulting and threatening law enforcement officers in his hometown of Redding, California, and in Oregon, according to the report.

Kansas police warned Jayne should be considered armed and dangerous, and a stolen van was found in the search.

The outlet stated that “Jayne was allegedly willing to engage in high-speed chases and cause accidents to avoid capture, as well as invade homes. He threatened to take deadly action to avoid d be returned to detention.” He said that in the Oregon incident, Jayne tried to run over a police officer while he was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Oregon court records show that a Michael Aaron Jayne with the same birth year was arrested in 2009 and charged with attempted murder in Oregon, as well as two counts of possessing body armor as as a criminal and two counts of attempting to commit a crime. He pleaded guilty later that year to one count of possession of a bulletproof vest and one count of attempting to commit a felony, and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. The attempted murder charge was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

California court records show that a person of the same name pleaded guilty on July 18, 2011, to resisting an officer and pleaded no contest to three additional counts of resisting a police officer and one count of battery and injuries against a police officer, linked to incidents occurring on several dates. in 2008 and 2010. He was sentenced to eight months in prison on each count. Multiple charges of threatening terrorism were dismissed as part of the same plea deal.

A search of online Kansas court records did not provide a history for Jayne.

Contributor: Alex Cabrero, Becky Bruce

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