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Bystanders praised for disarming felon loading gun inside Utah store


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SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) – Heber City, Utah officials are praising three bystanders for thwarting a “potential disaster” when they disarmed a felon who was loading a handgun inside a sporting goods store last month.

Tuesday night, Heber City Police Chief Dave Booth presented two of the three bystanders with an award for their quick actions to take a gun out of the man’s hands.

“In my opinion, we could have had an active shooter, we could have had a mass causality situation very easily,” Booth told 2News.

Police say the incident began on July 12, when Jose Sosa, 28, walked into the Sportsmans Warehouse on U.S 189 and put ammunition into his pockets. He then approached the gun counter and asked to see a handgun, according to police.

“He looked at the handgun and asked the manager the price of the handgun. She told him the price, and [Sosa] placed the handgun in his pocket. He told the manager ‘Thanks’ and began to walk away from the counter with the handgun in his pocket,” a police report states.

The clerk, Chelsea Cunningham, followed Sosa and grabbed the firearm which led to a struggle.

“A customer who observed the manager struggling with [Sosa] ran over and tackled [Sosa]. Another customer ran over and assisted the customer and manager. They were able to take the handgun from [Sosa]. They also were able to detain [Sosa] until law enforcement arrived on scene,” the police report states.

Jose Sosa

Police body-camera video shows officers arrive at the Sportsman Warehouse. Cunningham and another bystander, Dakota Anderson, told them what happened. A third bystander also assisted in detaining Sosa, but that individual did not wish to be identified.

Officers immediately arrested Sosa and found a box of .357 ammunition in his pocket. The police report indicates several bullets fell out while Sosa was attempting to load the handgun in the store.

“There were enough people in there that this could have been a very tragic incident,” Booth said.

At Tuesday night’s city council meeting, Heber City Mayor Kelleen Potter called the situation a ‘potential disaster’.

Dakota Anderson spoke with 2News after the meeting and expressed concern that Sosa was given a handgun in the store.

“There needs to be something done about the safety of the firearms in Sportsmans Warehouse and other places because he was a felon and still got access to a firearm,” Anderson said.

Sosa is on probation and had a previous conviction for aggravated robbery and kidnapping. Heber City Police wrote in a court affidavit that Sosa had previously threatened to ‘snipe’ officers at the Wasatch County Sheriff’s Office.

Sosa was charged last month in state court with an aggravated robbery, however, Booth said he hopes Sosa will face federal firearm charges. 2News confirmed the ATF is investigating the case. Sosa is being held in the Wasatch County Jail in Utah.