Taylorsville, UT – Two Utah police officers were shot during a standoff with a suspect wanted in a rape and robbery case Wednesday night.
The incident began in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven gas station on South Redwood Road at approximately 10 p.m. on Dec. 1, the Deseret News reported.
Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies were searching for several suspects at the time, including 20-year-old Anei Gabriel Joker, West Valley Police Department (WVPD) Chief Colleen Jacobs told the paper.
Joker was on probation for a litany of other offenses and was wanted on rape and robbery charges at the time of the standoff, according to KSTU.
Chief Jacobs refused to discuss details of the original underlying investigation, but described it as “a specific operation to look for some specific individuals,” the Deseret News reported.
Officers spotted Joker pulling into the parking lot of the convenience store and noticed he had an infant and two other adults in the vehicle with him.
Joker had a significant criminal history, was well-known to police, and was considered to armed and dangerous at the time, KJZZ reported.
The fact that the baby was inside the car altered the officers’ tactics “drastically,” Chief Jacobs said, according to the Deseret News.
The two adult occupants exited the vehicle at some point during the ensuing confrontation, the Deseret News reported.
But Joker refused to surrender.
“He would not exit the vehicle and he would not release the infant,” Chief Jacobs said, according to KJZZ.
Law enforcement officers from multiple agencies responded to the scene and began negotiating with Joker to let them take the child to safety, the Deseret News reported.
Chief Jacobs declined to comment on whether or not Joker is the infant’s father.
Police were eventually able to convince the suspect to let them approach to retrieve the baby from the car, the Deseret News reported.
“[They] did so at great risk to themselves and we’re very proud of their efforts to make sure the safety of this baby was at the forefront,” Chief Jacobs noted.
But after the baby had been taken to safety, Joker still refused to give up.
“Officers were aware that this suspect is a dangerous suspect and that warranted being approached in such a manner and making every effort possible to get a dangerous suspect into custody,” WVPD Spokesperson Roxanne Vainuku told the Deseret News. “He still remained inside [the vehicle and] would not get out during that process of negotiation.”
Police fired pepper balls at the car at approximately 10:30 p.m., at which point Joker opened fire on them, Chief Jacobs said.
Two officers were hit during the ensuing gun battle.
A WVPD officer suffered a gunshot wound to the left shoulder and left leg, the Deseret News reported.
He was rushed to the hospital in critical condition and taken into emergency surgery.
The officer remained hospitalized in stable condition Thursday, according to police.
The second wounded officer is a nine-year veteran of the Unified Police Department (UPD), the Deseret News reported.
He was hospitalized in serious condition overnight, and has since been released to recover at home.
Joker was also shot during the exchange of gunfire, the Deseret News reported.
He was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Joker was sentenced to probation in June for five separate cases involving charges of aggravated robbery, aggravated assault, and attempted discharge of a firearm, among others, the Deseret News reported.
“l learned my lesson,” the father-of-two wrote in a letter to the judge ahead of his Utah sentencing in June.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in a statement that prosecutors had argued for a harsher sentence, but the judge opted to put Joker on probation instead, the Deseret News reported.
“[Joker] was placed on probation despite the state’s objection,” Gill wrote. “We argued that a prison sentence was appropriate due to the violent nature of the three crimes and additional aggravating factors — e.g., the fact that he caused substantial injury to a victim, firearms were used in commission of these multiple offenses, exhibited pattern of aggressive/harmful behavior towards others.”
He also went by the alias of 25-year-old Ramon Julima and was arrested on an outstanding fugitive arrest warrant for a weapons charge under that name back in August.
Joker got into a high-speed chase with police in Cottonwood Heights back in 2017 and ended up being shot by an officer while reaching towards his waistband during a subsequent foot pursuit that day, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
A box of ammunition fell out of the suspect’s backpack during the encounter, according to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
“[Joker’s] actions, combined with the box of bullets from the backpack caused him to believe [Joker] was either trying to ‘get that gun back out or trying to hide it,’” prosecutors said.
Hospital personnel found a revolver hidden in Joker’s pants after he was transported to the hospital for treatment during the 2017 incident, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Chief Jacobs said police are just one facet of the criminal justice system and cannot singlehandedly hold violent criminals accountable for their actions, the Deseret News reported.
“We don’t have a whole lot of influence over the other components of [the justice system],” she said. “We do our best to do our part to the best of our ability and hope that the other parts of criminal justice do their parts as well.”