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Oregon parolee pleads guilty to shooting at Utah officer

(Geoff Liesik/Deseret News)


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VERNAL — An Oregon parolee has admitted to shooting at a Utah police officer during a September traffic stop and assaulting three other officers in separate incidents.

Kiel Kane Kimball, 28, pleaded guilty Thursday in 8th District Court to assault on a police officer and obstruction of justice, both second-degree felonies; one count of failure to stop at the command of police and two counts of assault by a prisoner, all third-degree felonies; and assault on a police officer, a class A misdemeanor.

In court papers filed as part of his plea, Kimball admitted he fired eight shots from a .45-caliber handgun at Vernal police officer Chris Gardenheir on Sept. 9. Gardenheir tried to pull Kimball over for an equipment violation about 3:30 a.m., leading to a brief chase that ended when Kimball crashed the pickup truck he was driving into a weed-filled lot.

Gardenheir was shouting for the people in the truck to put their hands up when Kimball opened fire, according to investigators and a video recorded by the dash-mounted camera in the officer's patrol car. Gardenheir fired seven shots in return, investigators said.

No one was wounded in the exchange; however, police said a bullet from Kimball's gun was found in the wall of a nearby apartment. Kimball and his girlfriend, Savanah Marie Hackford, ran away after the shooting. They were arrested within 48 hours, and Kimball led investigators to the spot where he'd hidden the gun, court papers show.

"The weapon had an empty magazine and the slide of the weapon was locked back in the open position, indicating that the weapon had been fired until no bullets remained," court records state.

At the time of the shooting, Kimball had pending charges in Utah and was on the "most wanted list" in Malheur County, Oregon, where he is on parole for kidnapping and hindering prosecution convictions.

Hackford, 23, pleaded guilty in November to possession of a controlled substance, a third-degree felony, and failure to stop at the command of police, a class A misdemeanor. As part of their deal with Kimball, prosecutors agreed to request probation for Hackford when she is sentenced in January.

In addition to admitting that he shot at Gardenheir, Kimball also acknowledged in court records that he struck a police officer in June, assaulted another officer in September when he was arrested and assaulted a corrections deputy in the Uintah County Jail.

The officer who was assaulted in September suffered injuries to his finger, elbow and knee, court records show. The knee injury required surgery, and the officer has "long-term reduction of function of the knee," according to court records.

Kimball is being held without bail in the Uintah County Jail. He is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 17.

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Geoff Liesik

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