Public Safety

KUER Local News stories about public safety.

Brian Grimmett

Draper City and the Unified Fire Authority are working hand in hand to help mitigate fire danger on Traverse Mountain.

The area where firefighters are thinning out the underbrush is located on a steep hill leading right up into homes in the SunCrest neighborhood. Unified Fire Authority Captain Riley Pilgrim says they’re hoping to help reduce the fire risk of one of the most dangerous spots in the state.

Violence Policy Center

Utah is one of 14 states where the number of gun-related deaths is now higher than the number of highway fatalities. 

Highway fatalities in Utah – and across the country – have dropped dramatically in the past decade, thanks in part to safer cars and better drunk driving enforcement. For Utah, a report from the Violence Policy Center says there were 277 motor vehicle deaths in 2011, compared to 308 deaths from guns.  That includes accidents, homicides and suicides.

Dan Bammes

  A huge pile of wood chips on the Diamond Tree Experts site in South Salt Lake caught fire yesterday.  It was the second fire there in a month, and city officials say they’re taking steps to prevent another fire from occurring in the future.

Smoke from the burning mulch pile at about 3600 South was thick enough to shut down I-15 temporarily.  Firefighters worked through the night to put out the flames.  They think it was started by spontaneous combustion in the decomposing mulch, though the exact cause is under investigation.

Nicole Nixon

A man accused of shooting and killing a Draper City police officer last September will spend the rest of his life in prison without the possibility of parole. Thirty-four-year-old Timothy Troy Walker was convicted Tuesday morning in 3rd District court with aggravated murder in the death of 32-year-old police Sergeant Derek Johnson.

Whittney Evans

Salt Lake County’s Metro Gang Unit has captured three of the county’s most-wanted gangsters in the past month. Officials say it’s mostly a coincidence that they’ve nabbed the fugitives in such a short period of time, but its evidence that the unit’s relationship with the public is crucial to these arrests. 

Ikluft via wikimedia commons

Today, many residents along the Wasatch Front will be lighting fuses and gazing up at the sky. July 1st is the first day to legally ignite fireworks across the state. 

State-approved fireworks can be discharged from July 1st through July 7th and again on July 21st through July 27th between 11 am and 11 pm. Hours are extended to midnight on Independence Day and Pioneer Day.

This year, the state legislature gave authority to the Salt Lake County Council to place fireworks restrictions on unincorporated areas of the county instead of the state forester.

The Salt Lake City Police Department is investigating the actions of a police officer who shot and killed a dog while searching for a missing child in Sugar House. Meanwhile, Police Chief Chris Burbank says the vitriol aimed at his officers as a result of the incident has gone too far.

Earlier this month, Officer Brett Olsen entered Sean Kendall’s backyard through an unlocked gate while searching for a missing child. Saying he felt threatened, Olsen shot dead Kendall’s 2-year-old Weimaraner named Geist.

Whittney Evans

A former West Valley City police officer who shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard in a 2012 drug bust is facing criminal charges. The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office filed the charges this morning in 3rd District Court.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has charged former West Valley City narcotics detective Shaun Cowley with 2nd degree manslaughter. Gill opted not to file charges against detective Kevin Salmon who also fired his weapon at the scene. Cowley fired the first and fatal shot.  

shahram sharif via Wikimedia Commons

Utah lawmakers were at the state capitol today discussing how to deal with thousands of untested rape in the state. They heard from law enforcement, victim advocates and the state crime lab. But there’s still no consensus on whether all the kits actually need to be tested.

When it comes to gang activity, most people picture cities like Los Angeles and Newark. But gangs are a problem in unexpected places, too — like Salt Lake City, where law enforcement officials are using federal racketeering charges to try to bring them down.

Bryan William Jones | http://prometheus.med.utah.edu/~bwjones/

A Utah legislator plans to run a bill that would bring back the firing squad as an option for Utah inmates sentenced to death. Since 2004 Utah inmates sentenced to death have had only one option for their execution: death by lethal injection. But Republican Representative Paul Ray says that could soon pose an issue for the state as it is becoming harder to obtain the specific drugs needed to create the injection and any new formula could be challenged in court.

The West Valley City Civil Service Commission has overturned the demotion of Lt. John Coyle, the former head of the now disbanded Neighborhood Narcotics Unit.

Brian Grimmett

Several new laws go into effect today, including one that could change people’s driving habits. Utah Highway Patrol Superintendent Danny Fuhr explains the new cell phone law this way.

“In order for us to pull someone over we’re going to see their phone in their hand," Fuhr says. "We’re going to see their attention drawn towards that phone and some type of manipulation of that phone, meaning they’re pushing multiple characters into that phone.”

Brian Grimmett

Officials from the state legislature, the Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Highway Patrol joined bicycle advocates to help kick off the annual Road Respect tour.

Salt Lake County

A jailed man accused of sexually abusing teenage immigrant boys and forcing them to deal drugs is dead. The Salt Lake County Sheriff says that authorities found 42-year-old Victor Manuel Rax hanging in his cell Monday night, and they believe he committed suicide.

Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

Prosecutors filed six first-degree murder charges Monday against a Utah woman accused of killing six of her own newborn babies. If convicted, 39-year-old Megan Huntsman of Pleasant Grove would not face the death penalty, but could spend the rest of her life in prison.

According to Pleasant Grove police, Megan Huntsman admitted to suffocating or strangling six of her babies and hiding their bodies in boxes in her garage. Deputy Utah County Attorney Jared Perkins on the prosecution team says they think they know her motive, but are not releasing that information yet.

The Salt Lake City Police Department is working with local businesses and homeowners to stamp out crime in and around Pioneer Park…with video cameras.

The SafeCam program encourages businesses and residents to share their security camera footage with police who can then view the camera footage in real time by tapping into their IP addresses. Mike Brown is Deputy Police Chief at the Salt Lake City Police Department. He says businesses and developers are looking to clean up the neighborhood along Pioneer Park which is a well-known spot for drug deals.

A woman in St George has been charged with felony child endangerment for using methamphetamine while pregnant.  The baby was delivered by emergency C-section last week due to medical problems. According to charges filed Monday, the 24-year-old mother admitted to medical staff and police that she is addicted to meth and used it while pregnant. She was booked in a Washington County facility on 10,000 dollars bail. But state officials and health experts say the law was never intended to prosecute pregnant women.

Provo City

Provo city officials are asking for the community’s help in finding a serial arsonist that has set 10 fires in the last month.Each of the 10 fires has been ignited in or around an abandoned house or structure. The first fire too place on March 13 and the latest fire happened early Tuesday morning.

BYU

A group of researchers at Brigham Young University have developed an advanced traffic safety model that’s helping UDOT make Utah roads safer.

Grant Schultz is an associate professor of civil engineering at BYU. He was on the team of researchers that has spent the last 5 years developing the model. He says the tool will help the Utah Department of Transportation save lives.

Bob Nelson

Rocky Mountain Power and various rescue crews in the Salt Lake Valley are running three coordinated rescue exercises this week. Monday’s exercise was the first in the series with a mock victim trapped below an industrial power supply box in a Salt Lake City industrial park.

Utah Department of Corrections

A federal marshal shot and killed a man on trial at the new federal courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City after he rushed the witness stand.Siale Angilau, 25, was on trial for violating federal RICO laws. Those are laws that deal with organized crime and corruption. The charges stem from Angilau’s involvement with the Tongan Crip gang.

Perry Caldwell was inside the courtroom when Angilau attacked the witness. He says the witness was testifying about how the Tongan Crip gang works when it happened.

Bob Nelson

The Salt Lake County Emergency Preparedness Expo is going on until 8 this evening at the South Towne Expo Center. Jeff Graviet is the Emergency Services Director for Salt Lake County. He says it is important that at least once a year residents assess how prepared they for unforeseen disasters.

Andrea Smardon

  Schools, government agencies and businesses across the Wasatch Front took part in the Great Utah ShakeOut on Thursday.  The earthquake drill got a lot of people out of their offices and into the sunshine at the University of Utah.

Several hundred people assembled in a parking lot near the HPER P.E. building on the U of U campus after receiving a text message at 10:15.  They were told at first to drop, cover and hold on as if a real earthquake was happening and then to evacuate the buildings where they work.

On the heels of a heated conversation with the Salt Lake City Council on Tuesday, Police Chief Chris Burbank maintains the department’s backlog of unprocessed rape kits is not an issue of cost or bureaucracy—but necessity.  Today he announced steps to make the process more transparent. 

Dan Bammes

  Fewer people are signed up for the Great Utah ShakeOut earthquake drill this year, but state officials are still hoping to get the message out about emergency preparedness. About 827,000 people are signed up through their businesses and schools to participate in the Great Utah ShakeOut Thursday morning at 10:15.  Last year, it was more than 900,000.

The Salt Lake City Police Department has hundreds of unprocessed rape kits collecting dust on a shelf. Now the Salt Lake City council is looking into how to best manage the backlog of evidence.

Data from the Salt Lake City Police Department show 625 kits that contain physical evidence of a sexual assault are still in custody and have not been sent to the state lab for DNA testing.

Brian Grimmett

The Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill that aims to prevent another controversy like the one surrounding the Stericycle medical waste incinerator from happening again in the future.

Brian Grimmett

A bill that aims to protect children from sexual abuse through education got unanimous support on the House floor today despite some initial concerns.

Flickr Creative Commons

It’s now up to Governor Gary Herbert now to decide if more of Utah highways should be considered for 80 mile per hour speed limits.

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