9 pounds of meth found in car of I-15 shootout suspect

Posted at 6:12 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-21 03:21:33-04

JUAB COUNTY, Utah — A vehicle search turned up nine pounds of methamphetamine and a loaded handgun, after a wild string of events Wednesday, including a shootout between a suspect and police in Juab County.

READ: Officer justified in 2020 shooting of suicidal man in Holladay

Law enforcement experts are now questioning why the man pulled over by police, Jacob Howard Klein, was even on the streets to begin with. It's raising concerns over what went wrong in a Minnesota court, that led to Klein being released from jail after a different shootout with police.

On Wednesday, two deputies stopped the car driven by Jacob Howard Klein near mile marker 200 on I-15 for a traffic violation. A woman identified as Jennifer Huang, 43, was a passenger in the vehicle.

Klein somehow gained control of the SUV as he sat in the passenger seat to be interviewed, an affidavit for Huang states, and he took off with a K-9 officer in the back.

After crashing the vehicle a few miles away off of the Yuba Lake State Park exit, Klein exchanged gunfire with two Utah Highway Patrol Troopers, injuring a bystander.

WATCH: UHP seeing more aggressive drivers as summer draws near

Then began an hours-long manhunt that led to the closure of I-15. Eventually, Klein was found hiding in the Sevier River, according to Juab County Sheriff Douglas Anderson.

Wednesday's ordeal is hardly the first time Klein has been accused of such dramatic violence in public, and it has some questioning how Klein was in Utah in the first place.

"Outrageous, is how I would state it," said Jim Winder, former Salt Lake County Sheriff and former Chief of Investigations for the Salt Lake County District Attorney.

Winder may be retired, but he's been following the story closely. He read about Klein's history in Minnesota.

The most recent event took place in March 2020, in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.

"He was in a shootout without officers in the parking lot of a Walmart," Winder explained. "A circumstance where he was walking into the store to buy large quantities of ammunition. This guy just wreaks of danger."

Court documents reveal Klein was a convicted felon at the time of the Walmart shooting, and is not allowed to own or possess firearms.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, Klein was accused of trying to shoplift from the Walmart, in addition to buying large amounts of ammunition. Employees noted Klein was wearing a holster. He was later found with a bandolier belt across his midsection, stocked with ammunition.

Klein shot at officers, before they ultimately shot him. Bail was set at $150,000, and according to court records, Klein went through a bail bonds company and was released from jail without any conditions set by the court in April 2020.

Winder called that "bizarre," that a convicted felon accused of shooting at police in a public parking lot would have zero conditions of release imposed upon him.

"To be bailed out and have no supervision, and no restrictions placed on him by the court, no monitoring-- That’s an individual that, frankly, should have remained incarcerated until his trial," Winder said.

Klein's public defender in Minnesota had "no comment" on the situation. Fox 13 was not able to speak with the court about why no restrictions were placed upon Klein.

No matter the reason, Winder said Klein had "no business" being out of jail.

"When you’ve already been in a shootout and you've been convicted of these other offenses, you’ve got no business walking the streets of communities. Otherwise people can die," Winder said. "So, that to me is a conversation that we need to be having."

He talked about how there is a lot of focus on police reform, and Winder said it's a legitimate conversation with the need for modifications and progression.

But he went on to say that this highlights the need for criminal justice reform, and taking the correct approach to violent offenders.

"Mr. Klein is a classic example of someone who has slipped through a great deal of cracks," Winder said.

Cracks that ultimately led to putting lives in danger in Utah, and Winder said heroic deputies finally put a stop to it.

"What Juab, Millard, and Utah Highway Patrol did is quality law enforcement work, and it takes a very bad person off the road," he said.

After Klein was captured in Wednesday's manhunt, a search of the car found the methamphetamine inside the trunk, along with a backpack that contained several grams of marijuana. A 9mm handgun, with the serial number removed, was found in the glove compartment.

The arrest affidavit says Huang, who originally gave police a fake name and social security number, is a "known felon" with a history of violence and assault and like Klein, is not allowed to posses guns. She was arrested on multiple offenses, including possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession of a dangerous weapon, and possession of marijuana.