MOAB, Utah (ABC4 News) – 5 years ago 40 year-old Lance Leeroy Arellanos vanished after shooting a Utah State Parks Ranger nine times and leaving him for dead. Two weeks ago his remains were recovered from inside a cave. Bringing closure to both families involved in this case.
“Here we are five years later with the Shumway family, which I’m grateful for, unfortunately his remains – it’s unfortunate that someone had to die, and I feel for them. I hope it brings them closure. It certainly has for us,” said Utah State Parks Ranger Brody Young.
Five years ago the area surrounding The Poison Spider Trailhead in Moab was much different. During that time over 100 law enforcement officers swarmed an area around Poison Spider Trailhead in search of the man responsible for shooting then-34-year-old Young.
On the night of November 10, 2010. Brody was checking the parking lot to the Poison Spider Trail when he came across Arellanos’ truck. He went to the truck thinking someone was still out on the trail and grabbed the license plate number. His plan was to return 30 minutes later to see if the truck was still there and then call for help thinking someone may have gotten stuck or injured. When he looked in the truck he noticed someone in the back seat. He knocked on the window and woke up a sleeping Arellanos.
Young recalls a calm interaction with Arellanos. Nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. They talked about camp sites and where Arellanos could find them. Young asked for an ID and Aellanos replied with a fake name, ‘Michael Oher.’ Oher is the name of an American Football player with the Carolina Panthers, and the inspiration for the 2009 movie ‘The Blind Side.’
“Maybe that was a sign of what was about to happen,” he added.
Young then walked back to his truck to run the ID when shots began to go off.
“As I was walking to my truck ready to get in, he opened fire and he came at me, shooting, gun blazing, and came upon me very quickly and kept shooting,” said Young.
As he fell to the ground he remembers Arellanos standing 5-to-10 feet away firing shot after shot down at him. He was struck nine times, once in both arms and the legs which ricocheted into his body causing internal bleeding.
“As I was laying there, I was given a choice – through my mind – and as this was going on, a choice of lay down and die or get up and defend yourself. So, I got up, I went to the back of my truck he went to the front and I was trying to figure out why I couldn’t grab my gun. He had shot me in my hummerus and shattered it, and I’m left handed and I just kept looking down and so I reached with my right hand,” said Young.
Young recalls his training that helped save his life. In his basement he would practice shooting with his non-dominant hand and how to shoot through what was protecting him, and that’s exactly what he did.
“I proceeded to shoot through my truck at him which caused him to back off, and I remembered we shot some more, and he came to the front of my truck, and I moved up and he raised his hands and said, “You got me.”
Young doesn’t remember much after that, he says he went unconscious and woke up moments later and noticed Arellanos had fled the scene. He then radioed for help.
“Help came and I was flown to the hospital, I was flown to the hospital at Grand Junction, St. Mary’s, and woke up a month later and started recovering from that point,” he said.
Police began a massive 100-plus man hunt for Arellanos. Setting up a larger perimeter to locate him. According to Young, Arellanos had driven off and ditched his truck off the road about 10 miles from the shooting. He apparently hiked about a mile before ditching some equipment. Police tracked down his truck and located the equipment but could not find Arellanos. Police say the items they recovered were covered in blood, although they’re not sure the extent of his injuries, and considering the state of the skeletal remains, they may never know exactly how he died.
Two weeks ago Caleb Shumway and his younger brother set off to find Arellanos’ remains. Caleb’s father was one of the original officers who searched for Arellanos during the man hunt and Caleb became very familiar with the case and search area. Two days into their search, on Christmas Eve, they stumbled upon a cave where they found some bones and some more equipment.
Upon entering the cave, police discovered the remains, which appeared to be inside a sleeping bag deep within the cave. They say the remains were found behind a boulder where a tiny entry way lay. There investigators had to crawl to get through.
“I think he was trying to hide. I think from the last place where we seen we had his clothing and some of that, the backpack and stuff. You know, he was about 400 yards from there,” said Sheriff Steve White with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office.
One Christmas Eve, 5 years to the day he woke up from a coma, he found out the remains had been discovered.
On Wednesday the medical examiners office used dental records and confirmed the remains to be those of Arellanos, bringing an end to this Grand County mystery.
He says after the shooting he had a lot of anxiety and fear. Fear of the dark. Every time he would go out to throw away the trash he would look over his shoulder. He wondered if he would ever be able to return to patrol -to a job he loves doing so much. So, one night in early Spring, just a few months into his recovery, he returned to the spot where he was shot, in the dead of night, and faced his fear.
“I had to work through that and that was the key for me running at the fear,’ he said, ‘Could I do it on patrol again? Approaching someone at night alone, you know? To work through that.”
Today he still carries with him daily reminders of the shooting. He still has four bullets left in him as well as some shrapnel. He says his body isn’t 100% but he’s lucky to be alive and lucky to be able to return to a job that he loves and treasures so much.
“Most importantly though, I get to be a father to my kids, and a husband and a friend, and that’s become so important through all this. God, family and friends,” Young says.
He also thanked the dozens upon dozens of law enforcement officers who put in so much time to help him, his family, and in the search for Arellanos.
To the Arellanos family, he says he hopes the discovery of the remains brings closure to their family.
The Sheriff’s office also confirmed that there was a $30,000 dollar reward for anyone who discovered the remains and is currently working to get that reward money to the Shumway brothers.