UPDATE: The man accused of shooting Gwyther and his passenger, 45-year-old Jonathan Mendoza Llana, was booked into the Cassia (Idaho) County Jail at 12:41 a.m. Saturday, according to police records which also say he is being held for an “outside agency.”
Wednesday night, as he drove with a coworker to Boise to work an early morning flight, Dennis Rowley Gwyther was shot and killed near the Utah-Idaho border by a California man who is still on the loose.
Utah State Bureau of Investigation Lt. Ryan Van Fleet said that the Utah Highway Patrol responded to a 911 call around 8 p.m. Wednesday night from the passenger of the vehicle Gwyther was driving, saying they had been shot at. When UHP and Box Elder County Sherrif officers arrived, they found that Gwyther had died from a gunshot wound and the passenger had been hit by a single round. The passenger was taken to a hospital in Tremonton.
The passenger was able to give a description of the vehicle that fled after the shooting, including specialty antennae that were attached to the vehicle. Police in Idaho located a vehicle that matched the description and attempted to pull it over, but the driver fled. The car subsequently crashed and when officers approached the vehicle, the driver was gone.
Idaho State Police, the Cassia County Sherrif’s Office, the Utah Highway Patrol and the Division of Public Service helicopter spent the day looking for the suspect.
When police interviewed the injured passenger, they were told there was no interaction between him and Gwyther and the suspect.
“As far as we understand it, there was a slow-down in traffic. Once the slow-down was cleared, both vehicles passed where the slowdown was occurring and this shooting occurred shortly after that,” Van Fleet said. “Nothing that we’ve been able to uncover so far indicates a road rage incident or any previous interaction.”
Gwyther was very active in Salt Lake’s LGBTQ community for several decades. He often helped with staging and sound at events, including the Mass Reception held right after marriage was declared legal in Utah and hundreds of couple, including Gwyther and his husband, Matt, ran to the County Clerk’s office to get married. He provided a mobile stage for a rally held at the Salt Lake City Building after the Orlando Pulse Massacre, knowing that it would rain that day. He’s helped with events for the Utah Bears, the leather community, the Royal Court of the Golden Spike Empire, QSaltLake Magazine, and other groups.
Matt Gwyther and Dennis’ family released a statement to the press:
Dennis Rowley Gwyther was a loved husband, father and brother.
He loved his family. His family was the most important thing in his life. He married Matthew Gwyther, the love of his life, the day gay marriage was legalized in Utah 12/10/13. He enjoyed being the bonus dad to his two teenage kids.
Loved to have fun and laugh. A kid inside an adult body.
Always kidding around and playing jokes.
Loved gadgets. A literal genius when it comes to technology. He could create anything especially if it involves wiring. He did sound and lighting for many clubs in Salt Lake.
He was an entrepreneur and always looked for new opportunities.
He was a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights and used his connections to help wherever he could.
His life was tragically taken while commuting to his job as a flight attendant based out of Boise. We are still in shock and have not processed much as the suspect is still at large and investigation is pending. We want him caught and swift justice.
The Box Elder County Attorney’s Office formally charged Jonathan Mendoza Llana, 45, of Los Angeles, with aggravated murder and attempted aggravated murder, both first-degree felonies. Authorities continue to search for Llana in Idaho.