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May 17, 2024
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Tragedy on Interstate 15: Santaquin Police Officer Joseph Whitbeck Struck and Killed by Semi-Truck; Suspect Michael Aaron Jayne in Custody After Manhunt and Short Pursuit

Tragedy on Interstate 15: Santaquin Police Officer Joseph Whitbeck Struck and Killed by Semi-Truck; Suspect Michael Aaron Jayne in Custody After Manhunt and Short Pursuit

A Santaquin police officer, Joseph Whitbeck, was struck and killed by a semi-truck on Sunday morning, leaving the community in shock and grief. The incident occurred around 8 a.m. on I-15 near milepost 244 in Santaquin, prompting a massive response from law enforcement and emergency services.

Utah Highway Patrol Cpl. Wright confirmed that both directions on the interstate would be closed for an extended period due to the crash. Officer Whitbeck was declared dead at the scene, while the suspect, Michael Aaron Jayne, fled the area on foot.

The incident began around 6 a.m. when Utah Highway Patrol received a call reporting someone standing on the back of a semitrailer traveling north. A Santaquin police officer and UHP trooper located the truck 30 minutes later and performed a traffic stop on I-15 near mile marker 244.

During the stop, the driver, Michael Aaron Jayne, allegedly struck Officer Whitbeck and fled the scene. Jayne was seen driving a white Ford F-150 truck with Utah plate number 2D7TR, prompting a shelter-in-place order for Mona, Payson, and Santaquin as authorities searched for him.

A manhunt ensued, lasting several hours as authorities alerted the public, noting that Jayne was possibly armed and dangerous. A “Blue Alert” was issued, and Jayne was later located near Vernal, leading to a short pursuit before he crashed the stolen pickup. He was then taken into custody.

Utah Highway Patrol closed both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-15 as officers investigated the crash, but the interstate has since been reopened in both directions. Santaquin Police Lt. Mike Wall spoke at a press conference, visibly emotional, saying, “Our entire department is hurt, and the family of Officer Whitbeck is hurt… Because of a senseless act by one individual, we have family members who will miss their father at their nearing wedding.”

Gov. Spencer Cox also released a public statement, writing, “We’re praying for Officer Whitbeck’s loved ones and everyone affected by this tragedy.” Officer Whitbeck was a dedicated public servant and a beloved member of the Santaquin community, and his loss will be deeply felt.

The investigation is ongoing, but authorities have confirmed that Michael Aaron Jayne is in custody and facing charges related to the incident. The Santaquin Police Department and the wider law enforcement community are mourning the loss of their colleague and friend, and the community is rallying around them in support.

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