Police arrest driver they said was drunkenly asking for a gas station while parked near gas pumps

Composite image with background stock photo of police lights with overlay of St. George Police uniform, January 21, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A welfare check led to the felony arrest of a St. George man who police said pulled up alongside an officer asking where the nearest gas station was located – in a parking lot where the gas pumps were within yards of where both vehicles were stopped.

File photo of the Costco location in St. George, St. George, Utah, March 14, 2020 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News

Last Tuesday, officers responded to Paradise Way in St. George shortly before 10 p.m. to conduct a welfare check on a man who had fallen in the front yard of his residence and who appeared to be severely impaired – which a witness described as being “high as a kite,” according to information provided to police and included in the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

The report also states that officers were advised the man had a gun with him and had driven off in a vehicle, which concerned the witness due to the level of intoxication they allegedly observed minutes before.

The reporting party “wanted a welfare check done because he was sure the male was not able to safely operate a vehicle,” the officer noted in the statement.

The officer began scouring the area in search of the vehicle, but was unable to locate any vehicle matching the description provided by the witness.

The officer was dispatched to the Costco parking lot on N. 3050 East in St. George a short time later, and while stopped in the parking lot a vehicle came up alongside the officer’s patrol vehicle that matched the description of the car involved in the welfare check call.

The officer got out of his patrol vehicle and asked the driver if he needed any help, which is when the man replied by asking the officer where the nearest gas station was, and then said “Am I going to die?” the officer noted.

The suspect “was clearly impaired.” The man could not stand up straight, was talking very slowly and deliberately and the officer later identified the suspect as 32-year-old Riley Howell.

The officer advised the suspect that he appeared impaired and asked Howell to perform a field sobriety test.

Based on the officer’s observations during the test, the suspect was placed under arrest for suspected DUI.

A supervisor then responded to the scene and assisted the officer in taking an inventory of the suspect’s vehicle prior to it being towed to the impound yard, which is when officers reportedly found a small handgun inside of a blue backpack located on the back seat of the car.

A check of the gun’s serial number revealed it was reported as stolen, the report states.

2020 stock image of Purgatory Correctional Facility in Hurricane, Utah, Oct. 21, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Officers also recovered a pocketknife tucked in between the driver’s seat and the center console that was in an open position.

A check on the vehicle’s registration showed it was canceled and that Howell’s license was suspended.

A background check also revealed that Howell had several cases and prior felony convictions which prohibits the suspect from having a firearm.

Howell was then transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing multiple charges, including second-degree felony theft of a firearm and third-degree felony possession of a firearm by a restricted person. He also faces a second misdemeanor count of the same charge as well as one count of suspected DUI, driving on a suspended license and driving on a suspended/cancelled registration.

At the jail, officers requested a blood draw to determine the suspect’s blood alcohol content, which the phlebotomist was unable to perform due to the suspect’s drug use.

Howell is scheduled to make an initial appearance in 5th District Court on Friday and remains in custody without bail.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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