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A Close Call

On March 13, 1976, Trooper Ronald T. Gale made a routine traffic stop six miles south of Beaver. The road at this location and time was a narrow two lanes. As the violator’s car rolled to a stop, the driver exited and immediately walked toward Trooper Gale. The violator was instructed by Trooper Gale to please step to the side of the road. During the conversation that followed, the violator was advised that he had been speeding and his license plates were expired. The suspect immediately pulled a revolver from under his jacket and pointed it at Trooper Gale. He then retrieved the trooper’s revolver.

The bandit then added, “Don’t do anything foolish, or I’ll kill you.” He then commanded, “Take the keys from the ignition and open the trunk.”

With the weapon trained on him every second, Trooper Gale walked to the rear of his vehicle and opened the trunk as instructed. During this entire incident, Ron thought of the second revolver concealed on his ankle and wondered how he could retrieve it to take control of the situation. He recognized any abrupt movement may be his last. He decided not to go for his backup weapon.

Once the trunk was opened the violator ordered, “Get in the trunk.” He then added, “Be damn careful.” Trooper Gale climbed into the trunk and laid down as instructed. He realized that the next few minutes would mean life or death for him. Just as the trunk lid was being closed, he could see two cars approaching from a distance. He hoped that they would be able to see what was happening. With the cocked weapon aimed at Trooper Gale’s head, the suspect slammed the trunk closed.

After the approaching cars had passed, Trooper Gale heard two shots, a short pause and then two more shots. Ron then realized that the suspect was shooting out the front tires of the patrol car. He then heard the suspect’s vehicle drive away. Trooper Gale searched his confined quarters to find instruments to release him from the dark prison. Several times he heard cars passing and wondered out loud, “Why won’t they stop?” One concerned motorist did stop in Beaver, to advise the police of the abandoned patrol car.

Meanwhile, dispatcher Abe Haycock, had been trying unsuccessfully to contact Trooper Gale on the police radio. Trooper Ken Clements responded to the area. Upon his arrival, he saw the patrol car with two flat tires. As he approached he feared the worst. He cautiously grabbed the butt of his weapon as the trunk lid opened and Trooper Ron Gale climbed out. Trooper Gale had removed the backup lights to allow light into the darkened trunk. He had then used the spike of a road flare to pick the lock. Immediately, a description of Trooper Gale’s assailant and the wanted vehicle were broadcast to Cedar City.

Just north of Beaver, the desperate suspect picked up two hitchhikers. He immediately brandished a revolver and stated, “You’re gonna be my insurance. I’ve just locked a cop in his trunk!” A former convict on parole, he was again on the run and would stop at nothing to maintain his freedom. The desperate suspect proceeded with his hostages at a very high rate of speed. He crossed several county lines and proceeded north on State Road 89. Sevier County Sheriff Rex Huntsman spotted the wanted vehicle at Joseph. He followed the vehicle and radioed for a roadblock one mile south of Richfield. As the suspect approached the roadblock he yelled to the officers, “Let me through or I’ll blow their heads off!” He was holding a gun to each of the hostage’s head.”

Now aware that there were two hostages involved in the situation, the officers had no recourse but to allow the suspect to pass through the blockade. Officers began to plan their next move. A second roadblock was established one mile south of Sigurd. Deputies from Sevier County and Officers from Richfield City joined with troopers of the Utah Highway Patrol. Armed with numerous weapons, including high-powered rifles positioned at strategic locations, officers were now prepared for a hostage situation.

As the bandit approached this second roadblock, he again held a revolver to the heads of his hostages and said, “Let me through or I’ll kill them now.” Trooper Roger Taylor replied, “You do and you are a dead man.” The bandit then threw both revolvers out the window and surrendered. He was convicted of kidnapping and armed robbery and sentenced to the Utah State Prison.