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Witnesses give testimony piecing together Meagan Grunwald involvement in police shootout

Witnesses give testimony piecing together Meagan Grunwald involvement in police shootout

(Spenser Heaps)


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PROVO — Dozens of witnesses saw moments of Meagan Grunwald and her boyfriend Jose Angel Garcia-Juaregui's flight from police last year. Now their testimonies are piecing together a story for jurors considering the case.

A pizza delivery driver testified Wednesday he caught a glimpse of a Utah County sheriff's vehicle stopped behind a white pickup truck that day, then was passed by the truck as it sped away. Another man described Thursday how the tires of his semitrailer were shot out by a man in the white truck as it passed him on southbound I-15.

On Friday, a man who saw the final gun battle between Garcia-Juaregui and officers told jurors what he saw: A man exchanging gunfire with police, and a distraught woman watching the scene unfold from where she crouched on the wet pavement.

"I drove into what ended up being a shootout," said James Clarken, who was headed home from Las Vegas with his wife and 10-year-old son at the time.

It wasn't until later that Clarken learned that Grunwald was only 17 — younger than he had thought — and that she was the suspected getaway driver in a cross-county chase on Jan. 30, 2014, after her boyfriend, Garcia-Juaregui, shot and killed Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Cory Wride, then gravely wounded deputy Greg Sherwood as he pursued them.

Grunwald, now 18, is charged as an adult with 10 felonies, including aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder in connection with the shots her boyfriend fired. Prosecutors say she was a willing accomplice and is therefore equally responsible for his crimes. Grunwald's attorneys, however, say she is also a victim, claiming she was manipulated by the older man and threatened until she drove the truck for him.

Garcia-Juaregui, 27, died of gunshot wounds the next day.

When Clarken first saw police lights as he drove along northbound I-15, he thought he was being pulled over for driving too fast on the snowy freeway. As he stopped, he saw men moving across the median with guns, another man fleeing, and a woman lying on the shoulder of the road.

Clarken had no idea what scene was playing out before him, but he was scared. Fearing for his wife and son, who were doing math homework in the back seat, he grabbed a personal weapon for protection and shouted a warning.


I drove into what ended up being a shootout.

–James Clarken, witness


"I saw the guns and I said, 'You need to get down,'" Clarken testified Friday.

Shots flew back and forth, Garcia was hit, and Clarken watched as a distressed Grunwald put her hands to her face and cried out. She was just feet away from him, he said.

"She was very upset with law enforcement for shooting this person," Clarken recalled.

Clarken described Grunwald's voice as angry and hysterical, as she shouted expletives at the officers who had shot Garcia.

"You didn't have to shoot him! You (expletive) shot him!" Grunwald had yelled, he said.

Several law enforcement officers who chased Grunwald's vehicle that day also testified Friday, describing how Garcia-Juaregui and Grunwald stole an SUV from a woman in Nephi, or assisted in the final shootout on the side of the freeway.

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John Sheets, a former Utah Highway Patrol trooper, testified about arresting Grunwald that day. He placed her in handcuffs as she lay on the ground, then took her to his patrol car as other officers gave first aid to her boyfriend.

A dashboard camera recorded the arrest and Grunwald's sobs as she was brought to Sheets' patrol car. She told the trooper that Garcia-Juaregui had threatened to shoot her and her family.

However, prosecutors let the recording play. Sheets noted that Grunwald was quiet as she sat in the car and is only heard crying when he is nearby. As Garcia-Juaregui is loaded into an ambulance, Grunwald can be heard in the video whispering.

"Why, baby?" she said. "Honey, why?"

Grunwald did not react as she watched the recording in court Friday.

The trial will continue on Monday and is scheduled to last through the week.

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McKenzie Romero

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