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Shooting at Monticello

On January 1, 1971, at 8:20 p.m., Trooper Robert “Bob” R. Low was on routine patrol, 14 miles north of Monticello on US 160 when he stopped a car bearing Texas license plates for an improper pass. The driver produced a license which did not match the registration. During this investigation one of the two male occupants pulled a pistol and stuck it into Trooper Low’s ribs. The other then disarmed Bob and ordered him to return to his patrol car. He was then forced at gunpoint to drive the two bandits in his patrol car onto a seldom traveled secondary dirt road which leads to Indian Creek State Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Trooper Low knew the two bandits were desperate. What he did not know is that they had killed a Phoenix policeman on December 28, 1970, and the vehicle they were driving was stolen. Trooper Low soon ascertained that the two felons planned to take him off the main traveled road to execute him. Rounding a sharp turn, Bob accelerated and then jumped from the vehicle. As he jumped the two felons both fired their weapons. One round struck the driver’s door, the other struck Bob in the back. He rolled down an embankment as the two felons scrambled to gain control of the erratic patrol car. Bob ran to an irrigation ditch and lay motionless as the two felons drove back and forth looking for the wounded trooper.

Finally, the two felons planned their next move. They used the patrol car to stop a vehicle driven by Roger Leon Hartman, who was accompanied by his sister, Maria. They handcuffed Mr. Hartman’s wrist to his sister’s ankle and left them with the abandoned patrol car. The two thugs then departed for Colorado.

Trooper Low lay motionless in the irrigation ditch for nearly one half hour. He was in intense pain and was bleeding profusely. Finally, convinced that the two felons had fled, he crawled from the ditch and flagged down a passing motorist, who transported him to Monticello.

Once the abandoned patrol car and the Hartman’s were located and released, an all points bulletin was broadcast. Approximately one hour later, Colorado State Trooper Sherman Kenell spotted the vehicle heading toward Cortez, Colorado. Trooper Kenell followed and requested a roadblock. Montezuma County Sheriff’s Deputies and Cortez City Police Officers established a roadblock just west of Cortez. The two felons successfully drove through the roadblock and were later apprehended following a high speed chase and a crash which injured the two felons. They were later extradited to Arizona to face murder charges.

Bob Low underwent four surgeries and spent the next eight and a half months recuperating from his injuries. He told visitors, “Next time, I’ll be just a little more cautious.” The “next time” came just 12 days after returning to work. Trooper Low was accompanied by San Juan County Deputy Sheriff Verl Green. Bob stopped what he thought was a routine traffic violator and upon approaching the vehicle the driver shoved a .32 caliber pistol out the window and stated, “Get your hands in the air and get your partner out of the car.”

As Trooper Low raised his hands, Deputy Green immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. Verl drew his pistol and obtained a sight picture on the rear window of the suspect’s car. Trooper Low then jumped to the side and Verl shot the back window out. The suspect attempted to exit the passenger’s door. Bob ran to the passenger side and fired two rounds. Deputy Green also fired again. When the shooting stopped the suspect was dead, slumped on the front seat of his car, the .32 auto still clutched in his hand.

The vehicle was later determined stolen, October 6, 1971, from Los Angeles. The driver had also committed several armed robberies. Trooper Low would later state, “It’s lucky Deputy Green was with me. I don’t even like to think what might have happened had I been alone.”

On the anniversary of the first incident, Trooper Bob Low was awarded the Legion of Valor by the American Federation of Police. Bob retired on May 1, 1978, following nearly 21 years of service with the Patrol. In 1992, Bob Low was awarded the DPS Purple Heart Medal.