Bike patrol officers arrest suspect in shooting at LDS church parking lot

Stock photo | St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man wanted in connection with a shooting that took place in the parking lot of an LDS chapel two weeks ago was arrested by two bike patrol officers at the Washington County Fair Saturday night.

Dillynn Pruett, 18,  was arrested shortly after 10 p.m. facing three third-degree felony counts of aggravated assault and one count of purchase/transfer/sell/use of a firearm by a restricted person, also a third-degree felony. The suspect also faces misdemeanor charges of discharge of a firearm or weapon in city limits.

Officers were alerted to the suspect’s whereabouts when a bystander, who was leaving the fair, approached two St. George Police bike patrol officers and advised them that a man wanted in connection with a shooting was in attendance and pointed them in the general direction of where the man was last seen, St. George Police Sgt. Spencer Holmes said.

Minutes later, officers saw a man matching the description of the suspect wearing a dark hoodie pulled down over his head, Holmes said. Once they got a good look at the suspect and realized it was Pruett, they slowly approached him, not knowing if the man was armed.

“This was a big guy in the middle of a very large crowd of people so we didn’t know how this was all going to turn out,” Holmes said.

Just as officers were closing in, Holmes said he looked over his shoulder to see an off-duty firefighter behind him who remained near the officers until the suspect was taken into custody.

Dillynn Louis Pruett,18, booking photo taken in Washington County, Utah, Aug. 11, 2019 | Photo courtesy of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

“He just stayed there until we had the guy detained, which was reassuring to know he had our back if something went wrong,” Holmes added.

Pruett was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility for further questioning by the detective assigned to the case.

The arrest stems from an incident reported July 23 when officers were dispatched to a church parking lot on South River Road on a shots fired call shortly before 11:30 p.m. in which five individuals reported they were shot at, according to the probable cause statement submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office for review.

Earlier that day, one of the witnesses had reportedly received a message through social media which they suspected was from an individual with whom they had just broken up. They believed the person was using an alias under the guise they were selling drugs. Playing along, the report said, a meeting was set up at the church parking lot and the individual arrived in a vehicle along with four other occupants. As they pulled in, they noticed a vehicle parked toward the rear of the parking lot.

As the group pulled up, the other vehicle drove away. As it passed by the other car, the passenger in the front seat of the suspect’s vehicle fired at least four shots at the group before exiting onto River Road and heading south. One of the bullets hit the windshield and shattered it, while a second possibly struck the front grill that appeared damaged.

The driver was later interviewed by police and denied any involvement in the shooting.

Through the course of the two-week investigation officers collected video surveillance footage from a gas station on River Road where the suspect’s vehicle could be seen traveling south around the time of the shooting.

Officers also received a tip claiming Pruett was the shooter sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car, an allegation the suspect later denied.

Police were also given conflicting stories by the driver of the suspect vehicle who claimed they were in the parking lot when four vehicles pulled in “going really fast.” As they attempted to drive away, he said that Pruett fired at the car with a revolver later found and turned over to police.

Pruett was questioned at the jail and according to police, he initially said that the other vehicles in the parking lot tried to block him in, and he was in “fear for his life,” which is why he fired the shots.

Pruett ultimately admitted to being in the car that night and to firing four shots at two vehicles using a gun that he “purchased for protection.” He also said he was trying to sell drugs that night that he purchased earlier that evening and that the shots were unjustified as he was not in danger at the time.

He also said he was not aiming at any person but was aiming low into the car’s grill and that he consumed marijuana about four hours prior to the incident.

The three counts of aggravated assault were submitted to the Washington County Attorney’s Office since the suspect used unlawful force which created a substantial risk of bodily injury to the occupants. Additionally, the trajectory of one of the rounds that shattered the car’s window would have “likely struck the driver had it gone through the windshield,” the officer noted in the report.

The suspect remains in custody on $50,000 bail.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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