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Police identify man, woman killed in American Fork shootings

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AMERICAN FORK — A man and a woman killed by gunfire Sunday in American Fork used to live together, but the woman had recently moved out and obtained a protective restraining order against the man, according to police.

SueAnn Sands, 39, of American Fork, was fatally shot and killed by James Dean Smith, 33, of Orem, who was killed a short time later following a shootout with officers, police say. It was not known Monday whether Smith died from police gunfire or a self-inflicted gunshot.

"We were supposed to grow old together," one woman wrote on Facebook. "No one made me laugh as much as I did when we were together. I'm so sad that our lives took different turns, but I never stopped loving you. You are and will always be my best friend. My heart aches so much. You shouldn't have had to go this way."

Another woman, who identified herself as Sands' sister-in-law, posted: "Heaven got another sweet angel way too soon."

According to Sands' Facebook page, she gave birth to a daughter in January. Police said Sands and Smith did not have any children together. They had lived together for about a year before she moved out about four months ago, according to police.

Sands had also at one time gone by the name SueAnn Newell. Her stepmother, Norma Newell, said Smith had refused to leave Sands alone. Sands moved into Norma Newell's home in July.

"All I know is what she told me, and I just know that he had been stalking and harassing her for quite a while. And we were doing everything we could to keep her safe, but we (couldn't) do it yesterday," Newell said Monday, becoming emotional.

Prior to Sunday's ordeal, Smith had "made life very miserable for all of us for quite a while," Newell said.

Several police agencies were still attempting Monday to put together a timeline of what happened Sunday night. American Fork Police Lt. Gregg Ludlow said officers know Sands was at work when she took a break about 7 p.m.

"She was at work and was scheduled to still be at work for several hours," he said.

Ludlow did not identify where Sands worked, but said it was between the Costco in Lehi and a nearby Wal-Mart. The shopping area sits on the border of American Fork and Lehi.

Video surveillance from the woman's business shows she was talking on her cellphone when she got into her car and drove off without telling anyone, Ludlow said. Police did not say Monday who she may have been talking to. Ludlow said she did not appear to be in a rush when she left.

Sometime between 7 and 7:30 p.m., police believe Sands met with Smith at a nearby business.

Police investigate the shooting of two people near Wal-Mart and Cinemark movie theater in American Fork on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Police investigate the shooting of two people near Wal-Mart and Cinemark movie theater in American Fork on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Ludlow said she filed for a court-ordered protection order from Smith on Nov. 9. The restraining order wasn't served until Nov. 21, however, because Smith couldn't be found, according to the lieutenant.

They found him on Nov. 21 and served him with the protective order, Ludlow said. A few hours later, American Fork police arrested Smith for investigation of DUI, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.

On Nov. 22, a member of Sands' family reported a car window was broken out at their American Fork residence. Ludlow said they believed Smith was responsible for that vandalism. That same day, the same family member reported that Smith was following them in a car, he said.

Just before 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 911 dispatchers received a call from Sands who screamed that someone was shooting at her car, according to American Fork police.

"It appears as she was driving, she was calling," Ludlow said.

Police believe there was "somewhat of a chase through the entire Meadows shopping area" between the man and woman that ended at the Wal-Mart parking lot, 949 W. Grasslands Drive. There, Smith allegedly used his Chevy Tahoe to ram Sands' Volkswagen Bug several times and also fired several shots, Ludlow said.

Sands was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head.

About eight minutes later, police spotted the Tahoe that the gunman was believed to be driving in the parking lot of Gordmans, 219 Meadow Lane. Smith sped off and led the officers on a two-minute chase around other nearby stores. When the SUV reached Cinemark, 715 W. Main, it stopped just outside the movie theater's main doors.

Police investigate the shooting of two people near Wal-Mart and Cinemark movie theater in American Fork on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
Police investigate the shooting of two people near Wal-Mart and Cinemark movie theater in American Fork on Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. (Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"An American Fork officer, a Lehi officer and a Utah County Sheriff’s Office deputy confronted the suspect and saw that he had a handgun. They ordered him to drop the weapon and he refused. Both officers and the deputy fired at the suspect," according to American Fork police.

Ludlow declined to say Monday if Smith was still inside his car when he was shot. He also declined to say if any additional evidence was found inside his vehicle.

As of Monday, it was unknown if Smith died as a result of being shot by officers or from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:07 p.m.

American Fork police were asking Monday for anyone who saw any part of the incident to call them at 801-763-3020.

Contributing: Nicole Vowell, Ben Lockhart

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