Salt Lake police say a man who was shot and killed by a Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy Thursday was a suspected drug runner who was the focus of an ongoing investigation.

The man was identified as Jose Enrique Gelpi, 49, who has had a few encounters with the law over the last couple of years.

About 11:40 a.m., plain-clothed deputies in unmarked police cars were looking for Gelpi near 600 East and 600 South. Police did not say Thursday how many officers were involved in the search.

"In an effort to avoid arrest, the subject fled in a vehicle, striking a narcotics sergeant who suffered minor injuries to his leg," according to a statement from Salt Lake police.

After the sergeant was hit, a detective fired at the vehicle, striking the driver. Gelpi was pronounced dead at the scene.

Court records indicate Gelpi was arrested Jan. 15 by Salt Lake police and was being prosecuted in 3rd District Court on multiple offenses, including third-degree felony possession of a controlled substance and interfering with a

legal arrest, a class B misdemeanor.

He appeared in court on those charges just last Tuesday and was scheduled for an arraignment on March 31.

On Wednesday, Gelpi had a jury trial scheduled for misdemeanor assault stemming from an August incident also investigated by Salt Lake police. Although Gelpi was not present, his attorney attended court and the charge was dismissed without prejudice, meaning prosecutors could always pursue the charge again.

In 2006 court records indicate he was stopped by Utah Highway Patrol troopers at 400 South and I-15 and arrested for multiple offenses, including possession of drug paraphernalia and tampering with evidence. He pleaded guilty to the drug charge in April of 2007 and the other two charges were dismissed. He served 40 days in jail and was placed on probation for a year.

On Thursday, police released few details about the late morning confrontation but the crime scene stretched a half a block down 600 East to the kitty-corner of Trolley Square.

The fleeing man's vehicle appeared to have jumped the median on 600 East, plowed down a small tree, hit a parked car and mowed over a wood fence before coming to a stop in the front yard of a house on the corner of the intersection.

An evidence marker for at least one shell casing could be seen on the street. The front windshield had a large blood stain on the inside. There was a broken tree stump in the median with the rest of the tree laying in the street. The parked car that was hit had its front end crunched and was spun around so that it was on the residence's grass.

Salt Lake City police were investigating the shooting, even though it involved county deputies, because it happened in their jurisdiction.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com