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HOLLADAY — A suspected serial bank robber shot himself in the leg when he wrestled an officer's gun away Tuesday night.
Two officers were staking out at a Fresh Market grocery store, 3865 S. 2300 East, Tuesday night, believing the Wells Fargo branch inside was a possible target for a man suspected of robbing six banks and a convenience store, Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal said.
"He had brandished a gun in all of these robberies. They had been violent robberies, and the fear was that these robberies were going to get more violent," Hoyal said.
The officers spotted a man matching the suspect's description enter the store and head toward the bank just before 7 p.m. As the officers approached, the man turned around and headed back outside.
When the officers contacted the man outside, he began to struggle against both of them, managing to free one officer's gun from its holster.
"Our officer did everything he could to keep his hand on that gun and keep it pointed in a safe direction, so as to not get shot, let the other officer get shot, or any other innocent citizens to get shot," Hoyal said. "The actions our officers took were nothing less than heroic by keeping that gun pointed in a safe direction."
This suspect was very determined to get that gun, and who knows what would have happened had they not done what they did to keep that gun pointed in a safe direction.
–Lt. Justin Hoyal, UPD
When the man managed to pull the trigger, the bullet went through the officer's coat and caught the man in the leg. He was transported to Intermountain Medical Center in fair condition.
The officer was treated at St. Mark's Hospital for minor injuries to his hand, sustained when the gun went off.
"This was a very close call," Hoyal said. "This suspect was very determined to get that gun, and who knows what would have happened had they not done what they did to keep that gun pointed in a safe direction."
Investigators believe the man involved in the confrontation is the same man suspected in the bank robberies. The investigation into those crimes is ongoing.
Police were working to identify the man Tuesday night. They did not release whether he was carrying any weapons at the time of the incident.
Contributing: Devon Dolan