Man arrested for pointing gun at green light dawdler

2019 file photo of Hurricane City Police vehicle, Hurricane, Utah, June 7, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A man was arrested for waving a handgun at another motorist on Tuesday, a confrontation that was allegedly set in motion when a driver had a momentary hesitation after a traffic light turned green on state Route 9 in Hurricane.

2018 file photo of evening traffic on SR-9 just east of Exit 16 in Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 21, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

On Tuesday, officers were dispatched to the area of 5300 West State Street shortly after 11 a.m. on a brandishing report involving a 911 caller who reported that a passenger in a vehicle had pointed a gun at him.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, officers spoke to the caller who said the incident started when he was at a red light and when the light turned green, the car directly behind his vehicle started honking and making hand gestures. 

One of the occupants in the suspect vehicle, the passenger traveling in a black Nissan Altima, threw something at his vehicle as they passed him, he said, and then the man was waving a gun at him as both vehicles passed by Purgatory Correctional Facility heading east on SR-9. 

The caller also said he continued driving to his job with the Altima following him, and at one point the suspect again put the gun out the window and pointed it at him. Once he reached the job site, the caller said he could see the same black Altima  parked down the street.

At that point, the caller said the passenger got out of the car with the gun in his hand, and according to the report, the suspect was seen leaning against the door of the car “flashing and pointing the gun at him.” 

A verbal confrontation ensued, which is when the Altima pulled away and drove off, but not before the caller was able to write down the license plate number that was later provided to authorities.

Meanwhile, the suspect’s vehicle was spotted by a Washington City police officer and was stopped minutes later, which is when the officer noted there was a small child sitting in the back seat of the car. The two suspects, the female driver and her male front-seat passenger, were both detained. 

Officers located the handgun, a .22 caliber Taurus, under the passenger seat of the vehicle, which the officer noted had no magazine and was not loaded at the time. 

The driver gave a similar account of the events that transpired that morning, but said when she honked at the driver, the man made a hand gesture, which is when the passenger threw a water bottle at the car, adding that it missed hitting the vehicle. The witness also said the man told her to follow the suspect and once they got to the job site, the passenger pulled the gun and exited the vehicle with it. 

The passenger, later identified as 27-year-old Otto Misi Leota, told officers the other driver gave them a hand gesture and then threw something at his vehicle, an object that struck the Altima, he said, which is when they “began chasing the other vehicle,” the officer noted. The suspect also told authorities the gun was not loaded and explained he had only held the gun in his hand, and “was holding it sideways just to show it” to the caller, the report states. 

Leota was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility and was booked into jail on third-degree aggravated assault and he was formally charged with the offense the following day. He was released from custody on Wednesday and is scheduled to make an initial appearance on Jan 28, 2022.

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, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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