Danger in Juab County
Sergeant Paul Mangelson has made hundreds of felony drug arrests and has recovered over one hundred stolen vehicles during his 28 years with the Utah Highway Patrol. He has fired his weapon on two separate occasions to defend his life. During another incident, his duty weapon nearly ended his life.
On April 27, 1989, Sergeant Mangelson stopped a vehicle traveling northbound on I-15 at the south Nephi exit. The driver had produced an identification card for Colorado and a vehicle registration from Wyoming. During a consent search of the vehicle, Paul found a Morton Salt container with a false bottom. Opening the container, he found methamphetamines, marijuana, hashish, Valium and two California driver licenses. The pictures on the driver licenses matched the driver and passenger, but with different names than had previously been given.
Sergeant Mangelson then frisked the driver and found an envelope in his sock containing $22,000 in $100 bills. As Paul attempted to place handcuffs on the driver, the suspect immediately attacked him, knocking him to the ground. The suspect began hitting and kneeing Sergeant Mangelson and attempted to gain control of his duty weapon. Paul assumed a defensive position by placing both hands on his holstered weapon. A northbound semi-truck driver saw the suspect on top of Sergeant Mangelson in the center of a travel lane of the freeway. He knew the officer was fighting for his life.
The truck driver slid his vehicle to a stop and jumped from the cab, brandishing a .44 caliber revolver. The truck driver then stated, “Do you want me to kill him officer?” The suspect jumped to his feet and ran from the freeway. As the suspect attempted to climb the freeway fence, Sergeant Mangelson pulled him down and placed a head lock on the fleeing felon. The truck driver assisted by placing the handcuffs on the suspect.
The suspect was found to be an eight-year veteran deputy sheriff from San Bernardino Sheriff’s Office. He was terminated for drug abuse; and later stole over 20 guns, money, and drugs from the San Bernardino Sheriff’s evidence locker. He had been a member of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department SWAT team and was proficient in arrest control tactics and karate. San Bernardino County Municipal Court had issued a no bail felony warrant for the suspect.
Sergeant Mangelson later wrote, “There is no doubt in my mind that if he could have gotten my gun, he would have killed me. He came at me as if it were life or death for him. He was desperate.” During this incident, Sergeant Mangelson received large bleeding wounds to the back of both arms as the suspect attempted to gain control of Mangelson’s weapon. He also had a pulled tendon in his left knee and bruised ribs on his right side. He was treated by Dr. James Besendorfer at the Nephi Medical Clinic.
The truck driver, Warren Fugitt of Omaha, Nebraska, was later honored in an awards presentation by the Utah Department of Public Safety. It is lucky for Sergeant Mangelson that this concerned truck driver stopped to help.