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SALT LAKE CITY -- What started as a routine traffic stop Sunday night, ended with a teenager in critical condition.
Salt Lake County sheriff's deputies said the teen got into a scuffle with a trooper, and the gun the boy was holding went off.
According to investigators, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper pulled a truck over near 3900 South and State Street around 10:30 Sunday night. When the trooper smelled marijuana in the car, he called for backup.
After more UHP units arrived, the trooper asked the six teens, including a 17-year-old in the backseat, to get out. But while removing the other passengers from inside the truck, one decided to take off.
"He turned almost like he was going to run from us, so our trooper went hands-on with him, and at that time noticed some type of weapon, some type of pistol come across his shoulder," said UHP Sgt. Jeff Nigbur.
Deputies said the trooper forced the teen to the ground. That's when the 17-year-old's gun went off, striking the young man in the head.
Investigators aren't sure if the boy was trying to shoot the trooper, or if firing the gun was an accident.
"It appears his back was to the trooper, and he was pointing the gun in the direction of the trooper, and his head was in that direction as well," said Salt Lake County sheriff's Lt. Don Hutson.
An investigation is now underway to determine if the teen was trying to shoot the trooper or if the discharge was an accident.
"It's a little bit unclear at this time exactly what the intent of this young man was," Hutson said.
The young man who was shot was transported to Intermountain Medical Center in critical condition. After several surgeries, he remains in critical condition.
On Monday, deputies said they had learned a lot more about the teen and what happened earlier in the evening. While questioning the truck's other passengers, they discovered the injured teen may have forced another boy into the vehicle over a drug dispute at a South Salt Lake home.
"The belief is there may have been some sort of narcotics involved; there may have been some sort of debt associated with these two young men that they were trying to settle," Hutson said.
As for the other five teens in the truck, none of them has been arrested for their involvement in the incident earlier in the night.
The Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office, South Salt Lake Police Department, UHP, and the district attorney's office are all investigating the case.