Teen suspected in Mathis Park shooting booked into jail following foot pursuit

Photo of Mathis Park in St. George, Utah, May 17, 2021 | File photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The 18-year-old suspected in the shooting reported Sunday night at Mathis Park was booked into jail early Thursday morning following a traffic stop and foot pursuit near Motel 6.

Photo of Mathis Park in St. George, Utah, May 17, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

On Wednesday shortly before midnight, an officer stopped a vehicle on 1000 East and Red Hills Parkway and was joined by a K-9 officer who deployed the dog to conduct an exterior sniff around the vehicle. The animal indicated to the possible presence of drugs and the driver was advised that officers would be conducting a search of the vehicle, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest.

Police say the driver identified himself as Guy Merlino and then told authorities he gave the wrong date of birth, which caused suspicion. As the driver was questioned further, the suspect took off on foot with the officers in tow.

The suspect ran west, through the parking lot of Motel 6 and then disappeared around a corner. A second officer located the suspect minutes later, and he was taken into custody by police, the report states.

The driver was identified by information obtained from emergency dispatch as 18-year-old Ryan Allen Pringle, who was arrested and transported to the hospital and then booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility facing felony evading and providing false information to police.

Pringle was also suspected of being involved in a shooting reported at Mathis Park in St. George on Sunday night. Detectives on that case were advised of the arrest and responded to the jail to speak to the suspect.

In that case, officers were dispatched to a report of shots fired at Mathis Park and arrived to learn that several people appeared to have been fighting. Witnesses reported hearing several gunshots from the area where the altercation was taking place.

As officers canvassed the park, they came upon an area that appeared to be where the shooting allegedly took place, where they found spent shell casings and blood.

While officers were still on scene at the park, they were contacted by a St. George Police Officer stationed at St. George Regional Hospital who notified them that a vehicle had pulled into the emergency room port with three young adults who were assisting a fourth young man into the hospital.

The 20-year-old arrived at the hospital with a gunshot wound to the small of his back, the report states. He was in pain and unable to speak with authorities at that time.

At the hospital, detectives learned the man sustained “serious bodily injury,” and internal trauma, when the bullet penetrated both his liver and intestines, the report states.

Later, officers learned the first name of the man who was suspected as being the shooter, known only as “Ryan.”

Through the course of the investigation, police say detectives were told that Pringle was an old associate of the shooting victim. The two men were allegedly friends at one point but had a falling out, which may have created some animosity between the two.

Another witness reported there were more than 10 people involved in the fight at the park late Sunday night that began with a verbal altercation between the group and then escalated and became physical. Police say at some point during the altercation, Pringle allegedly stepped back and fired several shots, which is when one of the men fell to the ground.

The report also states that one witness reported seeing the suspect pull a gun out and fire it in the direction of the victim before he turned and fled the park on foot.

Three individuals helped the shot man into their vehicle and drove him to the hospital. As they drove away, the officer noted, those individuals “also perceived that they were being shot at” and all reported hearing multiple gun shots.

Officers returned to Mathis Park, where the reports says they found a blood trail and six spent shell casings from a 9 mm handgun, as well as five projectiles that were located in the grass nearby.

After further investigation, officers determined that Pringle was the person who fired the shots at the park that night. The officer also noted that Pringle “would have known or had reason to believe that the individuals would be endangered by the discharge of the firearm.”

Officers continued in their efforts to locate the suspect, but it was not until the traffic stop late Wednesday night that Pringle was taken into custody by authorities.

After Pringle was booked into jail on the felony evading and false information charges, six additional charges in connection with the incident at the park were added. Those charges include a first-degree felony count of discharge of a weapon and second-degree felony aggravated assault. The suspect also faces three third-degree felony counts of discharge of a firearm for allegedly firing at the three witnesses during the altercation.

On Thursday, the charges were filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, with the exception of the first-degree weapons offense. Instead, Pringle was charged with a total of four third-degree counts of discharge of a firearm, while the aggravated assault charge remained unchanged.

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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