While on routine patrol at Vernal, Utah, during August 1964, Sergeant Howard D. Powell observed a car bearing a California plate parked at a service station with a young male driver. Sergeant Powell decided to check further and ran the license plate. What Howard did not know that the station was at that very moment being robbed by the passenger of the same vehicle.
Service station attendant Kenneth Sutton, 19, of Vernal later testified that after the car carrying the two young men drove into the station, the passenger exited, pulled a gun, and announced, “Get back inside, open the till and give me the money.”
As Sergeant Powell was watching the vehicle, the passenger got back in and it sped away at a high rate of speed. Powell followed and stopped the vehicle about a block away. Still unaware that a robbery had been committed, Sergeant Powell approached the vehicle to ask for a driver’s license. When he arrived at the driver’s door, the passenger pulled a semi-automatic pistol and fired point-blank at Howard. The Sergeant instinctively jumped backwards, just as the shot was fired. He then drew his service revolver and fired two shots through the rear window. The two bandits began to holler, “Okay, okay, we give up.” The passenger then threw out the weapon and both thugs surrendered.
It was not until Vernal City Officer Milburn Hatch Jr. and Trooper Ray Herrington arrived in separate cars to help, that Sergeant Powell found out the service station had been robbed. Dennis C. Desmarus, 19, and Joseph Siebold, 19, both of Anaheim, California, were taken into custody.