SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, March 22, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — Videos released Tuesday by the Salt Lake City Police Department show one officer being punched in the head in an unprovoked attack at Salt Lake International Airport; in an other incident, an officer is seen subduing a man who tried to walk through the security screening without complying with mandatory safety measures.
“These incidents show a total disregard for basic dignity and respect,” said SLCPD Chief Mike Brown in a statement accompanying the video. “This conduct can put our officers, airline passengers and airport employees at risk, and I hope these types of assaults end now.”
March 12 assault
In the March 12 incident, video shows two officers patrolling a hallway at the airport when a 33-year-old man walking nearby drops his backpack, approaches one officer and appears to grab the officer’s arm or shoulder. The man then draws back his elbow before delivering a hard punch to the side of the officer’s head.
“The man, without warning, dropped his bag and punched an officer in the head, nearly knocking him to the ground,” the SLCPD statement says. “After the punch, the man turned his attention toward the second officer and appeared to throw a second punch but immediately transitioned into a position of surrender and put his hands up.”
The suspect dropped to his knees and put his hands behind his head in apparent preparation for arrest.
The suspect was taken into custody and booked into the Salt Lake County Metro Jail on a charge of Assaulting a Police Officer. The case has been referred to the United States Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.
Feb. 17 incident
The department also shared a video from a Feb. 17 incident. An SLCPD officer observed a TSA officer in a verbal altercation with a man who reportedly failed to produce required documents, then tried to pass through security without the required scan to ensure he was unarmed and not carrying contraband materials.
The TSA worker and officer physically restrained the 28-year-old suspect, who was kicking and punching, before the officer forced the man to the floor to gain control.
The officer’s body camera recording captures the officer calling for backup and ordering the non-compliant suspect to flip into a stomach-down position, then being told to put his hands behind his back. The suspect does not immediately comply, but the SLCPD officer is able to grab the suspect’s arms and cuff him soon after.
A nearby airline passenger and former law enforcement officer, Enrique Rodriguez, stepped in to help the officer, the SLCPD statement says.
An investigation confirmed the suspect was not a ticketed passenger “and did not have business at the airport,” the police statement says. The case has been forwarded to the FBI and United States Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.
Brown’s statement thanked the TSA and airport personnel who responded quickly and directed other officers to the scene.
“Their partnership is vital to maintaining the welcoming, safe and efficient airport we have,” Brown said.
Bill Wyatt, airport executive director, thanked officers for their ongoing vigilance.
“We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to the men and women who work day in and day out to ensure the safety of our airport passengers and employees,” he said in the prepared news release. “We are grateful for their dedication in serving the traveling public.”
Matt Davis, TSA Federal Security Director for Utah, said violent behavior is unacceptable.
“TSA is grateful to our airport law enforcement partners who play an important role in operations at SLC,” he said. “TSA takes a zero tolerance approach to threats, verbal abuse and physical violence of any kind against our employees. We have the same expectation for the SLCPD officers who work alongside us every day.”