Shooting suspect turns himself in

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By AMY LINDBLOM

A man suspected of shooting at a U.S. Bureau of Land Management ranger Monday afternoon in the Red Hills area was arrested yesterday, marking the second arrest in the case.

William Donald Lutts, 20, of Groveland, turned himself in to Lt. John Steely yesterday morning at the Tuolumne County Sheriff's Department. Booked on suspicion of attempted murder, Lutts remained in the county jail this morning in lieu of $500,000 bail.

Monday night, John James Heller, also 20, was arrested in Chinese Camp on suspicion of drug possession. He remained jailed this morning in lieu of $10,000 bail.

Steely said BLM Ranger Steve Martin was patrolling federal land Monday about 2 p.m. when he saw a truck parked about 100 yards off Red Hills Road near tall shrubs and went to investigate.

Sheriff's investigators say Lutts shot at the ranger, who returned fire and damaged Lutts' truck. Lutts and another young man fled into the rugged hills. When Lutts ran away, he dropped a Smith and Wesson revolver and a knife, both recovered by Martin, Steely said.

The shooting occurred about a quarter mile west of a parking lot at the Red Hills Recreation Area trailhead.

After the men ran, Martin called for help on his radio.

Officers representing five agencies launched ground and air searches and closed off Highway 49, La Grange Road, Old Don Pedro Road and Red Hills Road so vehicles could be checked.

The tiny town of Chinese Camp was also cordoned off Monday afternoon and evening. Monday evening, a Chinese Camp resident spotted Heller in town about 7:30. He matched a description Martin gave investigators, and his shoe print matched those found in the dirt Tuolumne County SWAT team members were tracking, Steely said.

He was dirty, scratched, cut up and was found with a small amount of methamphetamine, Steely said.

Yesterday, sheriff's and BLM investigators combed the Red Hills area for more evidence.

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The Union Democrat
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