UTAH COUNTY — A man is in custody and a passenger in his vehicle was injured by gunfire after a high-speed chase in Utah County Sunday, during which the suspect drove toward police who fired shots in response.
Sgt. Spencer Cannon of the Utah County Sheriff’s Office said 40-year-old Michael Charles Rankin of Springville was arrested after a pursuit, during which Rankin tried to hit several officers with his car.
Things began Sunday around 10:15 a.m. when police tried to make a traffic stop in Springville, but the driver fled at speeds reaching 120 mph through Payson and Spanish Fork. The man ultimately ended up going up a dead-end road in Springville.
“The driver made a U-turn at that location and drove directly at a Springville officer,” Cannon said. “The Springville officer fired his sidearm at the suspect who was driving. The driver got on the freeway on the soutbound on-ramp, but was going north.”
Cannon said the man turned around at the top of the ramp and came back down the ramp going the correct direction and got onto the freeway.
“During the course of this there were officers in different locations who tried to deploy spikes in an effort to get the suspect to stop, several times the suspect drove directly at or swerved directly towards the officers who were doing this,” Cannon said.
The suspect made it onto the freeway and officers lost sight of him.
Police located the suspect vehicle around 1 p.m. in Spanish Fork using a ping from the man’s cell phone. The vehicle was empty when police located it, but a short time later Rankin and a female passenger got back into the vehicle and fled from police.
A fixed-wing aircraft had responded by this time and was keeping tabs on the suspect while police followed at a distance. Cannon said the pilot observed as the suspect pulled into a parking lot and stopped, which is when some nearby officers moved in.
“The suspect drove directly towards the Spanish Fork officer, and the Spanish Fork officer fired his sidearm at the suspect,” Cannon said. “At that point the suspect finally stopped and put his hands up and they were able to take them into custody.”
When they took the suspect into custody, police learned the passenger had suffered a head injury.
“It appears that she sustained a gunshot wound to the head that may have happened in Springville… we’re sure that injury didn’t happen [at the scene in Spanish Fork], we believe it happened where the shots were fired over in Springville,” Cannon said. “She’s not in serious condition, the injury to her head is not life-threatening.”
Cannon said they are investigating to determine whether the woman is also a suspect or if she was an unwilling participant in the chase.
He said they are also trying to determine why Rankin fled from the initial traffic stop. He said the only thing of note about the man’s history and driving record is that he had an expired registration.
“Most people would just stop for that and think, ‘Oh, dang, I’m going to get a ticket,'” Cannon said. “Why he didn’t choose to do that—guy has a valid driver’s license, he has no warrants, he has no protective order against him. Whether he just hates police or he whether he thought he had a warrant: we don’t know.”