San Juan County, CO – The San Juan County undersheriff was shot in the face when he tried to stop a woman from killing herself early Tuesday morning.
San Juan County Undersheriff Steve Lowrance was one of many law enforcement officers who responded to assist with a high-speed pursuit that originated in La Plata County, KUSA reported.
The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office (SJCSO) received a call that Durango police and La Plata County deputies were approaching the San Juan County line at approximately 2:12 a.m., according to the Silverton Standard.
Undersheriff Lowrence was able to pull in front of the driver, later identified as 20-year-old Amanda Maes, near mile marker 67 on Highway 550.
Simultaneously, SJCSO Deputy Dean Mize pulled in behind Maes’ vehicle, boxing her in, San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad explained.
“There was a driver with a firearm who was suicidal,” Sheriff Conrad said. “The officer attempted to prevent her from shooting.”
“While trying to prevent the driver from her actions,” Undersheriff Lowrance was shot in the face, the department said in a press release.
According to the sheriff, the round traveled through Maes, then struck Undersheriff Lowrance in the face, the Silverton Standard reported.
“Her wounds were fatal,” Sheriff Conrad confirmed.
Undersheriff Lowrance was transported to Mercy Medical Center in Durango, where he was treated for a gunshot wound that pierced his cheek and impacted his tooth, the Silverton Standard reported.
The .380-caliber round struck the undersheriff just below his lip, and knocked out one of his teeth. The round then passed through his mouth and exited his cheek.
Investigators later discovered that the bullet that struck Maes and Undersheriff Lowrance subsequently traveled across two lanes of traffic, then impacted a rock wall.
The round was found lying in the snow beneath the gouge it left on the wall.
Undersheriff Lowrance is expected to make a full recovery, and has been released from the hospital.
“He was probably in the hospital about two hours,” Sheriff Conrad said. “He’s feeling really well but all swollen up. He’s mad I won’t let him come back to work [the next day].”
“He feels really sorry that he couldn’t save that woman’s life,” the sheriff added.
Two passengers inside Maes’ vehicle were arrested at the scene. One is being held for a probation violation, while the other was the subject of an active warrant.
Maes and the other two individuals “were known to Durango officers,” Sheriff Conrad said.
Investigators also found illegal drugs inside the suspect vehicle.
The Colorado Bureau of Investigation is handling the ongoing investigation.