IRON COUNTY, Utah (ABC4) – A man has been arrested after a woman was shot in the back by a loaded rifle that was allegedly knocked over by her dogs in Iron County.

The Iron County Sheriff’s Office has arrested the suspect, James Allen Cox, 38, on six charges after his girlfriend was shot by a rifle during an argument at their mobile home. He had an outstanding warrant from California at the time of the incident.

Deputies say the incident happened on July 13 at a mobile home property containing several trailers in Iron County. When authorities arrived, they found the victim, an adult female, with a gunshot wound on her lower back. She was airlifted to St. George Regional Hospital for injury treatment. She also told authorities she had been using marijuana and methamphetamines at the time.

While investigating, authorities say the couple was engaged in an argument when the woman left the trailer and headed to another trailor for distance. The suspect, Cox, allegedly followed her into the second trailer while carrying a 22 caliber rifle under his arm.

Arrest documents say Cox accused his girlfriend of cheating and asked to see her cellphone while he allegedly propped his rifle against a nearby wall. When the woman refused to show her phone, she exited the trailer while several dogs followed behind her. 

At that moment, the woman says she was stepping off the trailer’s stairway when she “heard a gunshot and felt immediate pain.”

While questioning Cox, he claimed the dogs who were following the woman knocked over the rifle as they were walking out. He says the shooting was an accident and apologized “immediately” afterward.

The woman was shot in the lower back and “the bullet is lodged in proximity to the spine and could cause additional injury to remove it,” while the victim “also has paralysis in her right leg.”

Cox allegedly picked up the woman from the ground and moved her to another person’s trailer away from the scene. Cox had outstanding warrants from California at the time and claimed he was “scared to death” of being caught by authorities.

Cox said, “He was worried about his warrants and getting in trouble, he moved the firearm from the trailer where the incident occurred and placed it in the back bedroom of a separate trailer on the bed, he said he was scared to death.”

The Iron Metro Swat Team was dispatched to serve a search warrant on Cox’s residence. When they arrived, they used a loudspeaker, repeatedly asking Cox to exit his home. He was eventually located inside a trailer and taken into custody by SWAT Team members.

Authorities searched all dwellings on the suspect’s property which included one camper-style trailer and two mobile home-style trailers.

While searching, authorities found a bag containing “white crystalline substance along with several smoking devices consistent with the use of methamphetamines and marijuana,” a 22 caliber Marlin semiautomatic rifle and a box of 22-caliber ammunition.

Arrest documents say the rifle was found concealed behind a blanket and a piece of cardboard near the back bedroom of the trailer. The rifle was found loaded with 13 rounds of ammunition while the safety was not on, reports say. 

Cox was arrested on six charges including felony discharge of a firearm, possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, tampering with evidence, failure to stop at the command of law enforcement, possession of a controlled substance and use or possession of drug paraphernalia.

He is currently booked at the Iron County Jail.