Two men have been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of a driver whose car then crashed through an Orem neighborhood early Tuesday.
Orem police initially thought 42-year-old Rupert E. Miley had died from injuries suffered in the 3:15 a.m. traffic crash. A vehicle was traveling west in the eastbound lanes, when it struck a light pole, plowed into some trees and road signs, and destroyed a fire hydrant, coming to a rest near 200 East and 800 North, said Orem police Lt. Craig Martinez. Miley was found unconscious at the scene and later died at a hospital.
Investigators quickly discovered that Miley had suffered a gunshot wound to the back, Martinez said.
A passenger in the car also was at the scene, with only minor injuries. Mason French, 24, provided details that didn’t match up with evidence at the scene, and officers took him into custody.
A revolver later was found at the scene of the crash. Debris from the collisions was spread over several blocks, forcing police to close down all eastbound lanes through the area Tuesday morning while wreckage was cleared and the investigation proceeded.
Later officers learned a third man, Travis Waldron, 24, also may have been in the car, Martinez wrote. He was arrested on Tuesday afternoon.
Waldron and French both were booked into jail on suspicion of murder and obstruction of justice; Waldron also is suspected of a firearms violation.
Investigators said the incident began about 2 a.m. in the basement apartment where French and Waldron live, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court.
Waldron’s girlfriend told police that French and Waldron “were intoxicated” at the time. She also said that Waldron “was upset at (Miley) over an illegal drug debt,” according to the affidavit.
Detectives believe the men left to go to Miley’s Orem home. They arrived at 2:30 a.m. and pounded on the door. A woman who was living in Miley’s house opened the door, police said.
“(Waldron) was asking for (Miley) and had a bandana partially covering his face and was counting down from 10 for (the woman) to get (Miley) in a stern voice. (Miley) came downstairs and saw the male and said it was Travis Waldron and that he was drunk,” according to the affidavit.
Miley refused to go outside, and the men kept pounding on the door, according to police. When the woman at the door threatened to call police, “(Waldron) told her that would be a bad idea,” the affidavit states.
The men eventually left. About 15 minutes later, Miley also left the house, saying he would be back in a little bit, the report states.
Waldron and French returned to their apartment about 3 a.m. They told Waldron’s girlfriend that “things got serious,” and they got a gun, according to the report.
The girlfriend “tried to convince them to go to bed and not take the gun. (Waldron and French) left the residence on foot around 3 a.m., which coincides with the time of the homicide. (Waldron’s girlfriend) stated that around 3:30 a.m. that (Waldron) had called the home land line and instructed her to leave the home immediately,” according to the affidavit.
Police learned that after Waldron left Miley’s home, the two had exchanged “threatening text messages. This upset (Waldron) and arrangements were made to meet at Harmons grocery to resolve the problem,” according to the report.
Waldron told police he planned to fight Miley or get his money. After the drug debt was seemingly resolved, Waldron and French got into Miley’s vehicle, the report states.
While the three were driving, Waldron claimed that French, who was in the back seat, was holding a gun and it went off, going through the back of the driver’s seat and into Miley’s chest, according to the affidavit. Waldron bailed out of the car while Miley tried to drive to a hospital, but Miley crashed a short time later.
When officers arrived at the crash scene, they found French lying face up on the road near the rear passenger side door, the report stated. He was only wearing one shoe and had slurred speech, according to police.
Inside the car, investigators found a wood baseball bat between the driver’s side door and driver’s seat on the floor, as well as a metal hatchet on the driver’s seat, the report states.
A silver revolver and a shoe were found on the front lawn of a home at 162 E. 800 North. Detectives discovered that the .357 Ruger revolver belonged to French’s father and that French was known to take it from time to time, the affidavit states. Waldron and French live in the basement of the home of French’s father.
Waldron, who had bailed out of the vehicle, told his girlfriend that “he had gotten into an argument with Rupert and pointed the gun at his head,” the affidavit states, but that he handed the gun to French after they got in Miley’s vehicle.