‘Someone was watching over this area’: Police chief recounts outcome after shooting suspect’s rampage

In this file photo, Hurricane City Police Chief Lynn Excell speaks in St. George, Utah, Aug. 26, 2020 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

HURRICANE — The day after an armed man led police on a pursuit through the city on state Route 9 toward Rockville, shooting at multiple cars along the way, the Hurricane City Council and the police chief expressed gratitude for citizen support and efforts of local authorities to keep the community safe. The active shooter, identified as Rockville resident Shannon Alan Griffin, died two days later on Saturday. 

A car seen after it was shot at during a pursuit between police agencies and a suspect on SR-9, Rockville, Utah, Oct. 6, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

During Thursday’s meeting, Hurricane City Police Chief Lynn Excell and the council discussed the incident, previously reported by St. George News, and how thankful they were that no police or bystanders were killed or seriously injured. They also applauded the slew of regional law enforcement agencies who came together to help Hurricane Police apprehend the suspect while continuing to serve residents.

The police chief recapped the incident, which started at approximately 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday when Griffin, 55, got into an altercation with a man and his daughter near the Dairy Queen on State Street in Hurricane and allegedly brandished a gun. Police caught up with Griffin when he stopped at a nearby business and ordered him to exit the silver Ford pickup truck.

Authorities say Griffin was far from ready to comply. 

He then took off, speeding eastward and shooting at a few cars before leaving Hurricane. Hurricane Police continued the pursuit as the suspect headed toward Rockville. With Hurricane Police resources devoted to the chase, St. George Police stepped in, providing two officers and a sergeant to field phone calls and requests for services in Hurricane.

During the pursuit, Griffin reportedly drove at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour, shooting at several cars and at times swerving into ongoing traffic, demonstrating what Excell characterized as “a complete disregard for human life.”

A car seen after it was shot at during a pursuit between police agencies and a suspect on SR-9, Rockville, Utah, Oct. 6, 2021 | Photo by Ron Chaffin, St. George News

LaVerkin Police joined in the effort as did Springdale Police, who set up a spike strip at milepost 25 and reportedly opened fire at Griffin as he passed through the area. He incurred a punctured tire but continued to drive 2 miles further into Rockville. There, he ditched his car in the middle of the road and reportedly exchanged gunfire with Hurricane and Springdale Police before taking off on foot into a residential area. 

As law enforcement agents combed the area looking for the suspect, Rockville residents were informed there was an active shooter in the area and told to shelter in place. As the situation unfolded, some were evacuated from their houses.

At around 6:15 p.m., Griffin was found hiding in the backyard of a residence, injured with an alleged, self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was transported to St. George Regional Hospital where he remained in critical condition. He died Saturday, according to a press release issued by the Washington County Critical Incident Taskforce. 

“It’s not Mayberry anymore,” council member Joseph Prete said, regarding the danger and scope of the incident.

Saving grace

Addressing the council, Excell said he still can’t get the incident out of his head.

You take your family and your children to Zion for a vacation and as you’re leaving the park and you’re down the road, you get your car shot at,” he said.

Still, he said he feels luck – or perhaps something greater – prevailed that day.

“For that many shots to be fired at vehicles, hitting vehicles and (to have) no one injured other than some glass fragments, we were very fortunate,” Excell said. “If you don’t believe in divine intervention, I beg to differ with you. Someone was watching over this area last night.” 

One victim in particular came very close to severe injury, a child whose adjacent window shattered when a bullet round hit his family’s car.

“I kid you not, one of the bullets went through the window, pierced the back of his shirt, went between his shirt and back and through his car seat,” Excell said, adding that other than superficial injuries from the broken glass, the child was physically unharmed.

The council marveled when hearing the story.

“That kid is destined for great things,” council member Darren Larson said.

A model of cooperation

The police chief said they were also counting their blessings for regional cooperation.

Excell said: “My phone blew up with people asking, ‘What can we do? Where can we be to help?'”

Along with the Hurricane, St. George, Laverkin and Springdale police departments, a slew of area agencies came together to ensure citizen safety while navigating an on-the-move active shooter situation.

When council asked exactly how many agencies participated in the manhunt, Excell cited the Utah Highway Patrol, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, federal park agents, the bomb squad and the SWAT teams of Hurricane, the Washington County Sherriff’s Office and Kane County Sherriff’s Office, as well as the Hurricane Valley Fire District.

The chief also gave kudos to Steve Gilbert, owner of Diamond G Rodeo and Ranches in Toquerville, who lent law enforcement the use of his helicopter, something he’s done in the past, to search for the suspect.

“We do appreciate all the many partners who showed up,” Excell said. 

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

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