Searchers seek gunman in Utah ranger shooting
November 22, 2010
MOAB, Utah – Searchers combing rugged terrain near Moab came up empty Monday in their hunt for man possibly involved in the shooting of a Utah park ranger last week, but authorities said they believe he hasn’t escaped from a search area they’ve contained.
The target of their manhunt was Lance Leeroy Arellano, 40, who officials believe may be wounded and in need of medical help after the shootout late Friday. Authorities have recovered a rifle, backpack and a tattered, bloody T-shirt while searching for Arellano over the weekend in a canyon along the Colorado River.
“We still think he’s in there,” Grand County Sheriff Jim Nyland said during a Monday night news conference. “We’ve had the area contained enough that we don’t feel he’s left.”
Nyland said a skeleton crew of around 20 officers would monitor the perimeter of the search area overnight, with a full force of more than 160 officers scheduled to ramp up the search again Tuesday.
The rough terrain is full of large boulders and caves – each of which has to be searched by officers. On Tuesday, officers also plan to begin searching on the east side of the Colorado River, Nyland said.
Arellano’s mother has been cooperating with authorities in providing information about her son, who has not worked in about 18 months and had been living with her, the sheriff said.
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Police have learned that Arellano has spent some time in the Moab area.
“But we have no information that he knows the area well enough to really elude us,” Nyland said.
The ranger, Brody Young, 34, suffered injuries to an arm, leg and his stomach area, and underwent surgery over the weekend, Nyland said. A spokeswoman for St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colo., said Monday that Young is listed in serious condition.
The shootout occurred after Young stopped a vehicle near the Poison Spider Mesa Trail southwest of Moab near the Colorado River. The scenic trail, among Utah’s best-known biking runs, rises more than 1,000 feet into the surrounding countryside.
Authorities have not yet been able to interview Young, and it remained unclear what sparked the violence.
More than 160 law enforcement officers spent the weekend searching a 15-square mile area near eastern Utah’s Dead Horse State Park.
Authorities have confiscated and searched Arellano’s 1999 silver Pontiac Grand Am, which was found parked in the brush several miles south of the shooting site. Nyland said Monday that police matched fingerprints found in the car to Arellano.
“We consider this individual armed and dangerous. As we’re tracking him we have to keep that in mind – the security of the trackers – and we’re having to move pretty slow,” Nyland said at a news conference on Sunday.
Arellano has a criminal history that includes assault and drug charges.
The shooting comes in the wake of the killing earlier this month of a 31-year-old game warden in Pennsylvania who was shot while trying to apprehending an armed poacher.