A 46-year-old Logan man who fired a handgun in the Walmart parking lot in North Logan on a busy Saturday night last fall was sent to the Utah State Prison for 1-15 years.
According to defense attorney Bryan Galloway, Berenger Benally’s life has been one tragedy after another and a prison sentence in his early-20s left him labeled as a criminal with several return trips throughout his adult years.
“Maybe in this day and age we are approaching things a little bit different,” Galloway said.
He said Benally had been labeled but never given an opportunity to get treatment and overcome his challenges, so he asked the judge for jail time and an opportunity to receive help for mental health and addiction.
Benally, 46, has a criminal record dating back to his youth and as a result, he is not allowed to possess a firearm. However, on Sept. 15 last year, he obtained a gun at a point when he was reportedly feeling hopeless and suicidal. Police say he made threats to end not only his life but perhaps even the lives of others nearby.
The affidavit seeking his arrest states officers “continued to talk with Berenger while he was moving through the parked cars at which time they notified him they were told he had a gun and they wanted to make sure he was okay. Berenger denied having a gun and told them he was fine and to leave him alone.”
However, when Benally made a move toward the grocery entrance of the store, he was tackled to the ground by a Utah Highway Patrol trooper who said he could feel Berenger’s right hand reaching into his waistband.
Benally fired the gun in the melee, striking himself in the right thigh. Police eventually used a stun gun to subdue the man and he was taken into custody that night.
Cache County prosecutor Griffin Hazard said while there are many cases that allow for plea agreements and opportunities for defendants to get help, this is not one of them.
“He has an extensive, violent criminal history, and as unfortunate and sad as this is, this should not be one of those cases,” Hazard said. “For whatever reason, whatever cause, when he’s triggered he becomes a danger to himself and to the people in the community … it makes me sad that that is where he is, and I really am sorry that that is the state of his life.”
In March, Benally brought a $2 million lawsuit against the White Owl bar after an alleged 2017 fight there caused serious injury and brain damage.