The Perry and Willard police departments are in a bit of a spat over the handling of Willard's recent fatal house fire and surrounding events.
Eric Daniel Lankford, 26, died in the 3 a.m. blaze June 27 at the home he shared with brother Jeremy Michael Lankford, 29, at 103 E. 100 North.
The elder Lankford is a "person of interest" in the ongoing investigation of the death, Willard Police Chief Nate Thompson has said. Final findings in the case hinge on the results of toxicology reports expected in a matter of weeks from the state Medical Examiner's Office.
The fire scene has been treated like a crime scene as with any suspicious death, which is normal police protocol. Lankford had been cooperating with investigators until earlier this month, when he declined to answer questions without a lawyer present, Thompson said last week.
He was initially arrested after he was found locked in his truck at the fire scene and refused to leave the truck or talk to officers. A Willard officer had to break a window of the truck to arrest him. He has since been released.
Two members of the Weber County Homicide Task Force, a detective from the South Ogden force and another from Harrisville's police department have been assisting Thompson in the death investigation.
Perry police have been critical of the Willard force's handling of the case, noting their officer was the first on the scene of the fire, a Willard officer not on duty at the time.
They also said Willard should have made an arrest at a family fight call at the Lankford home at 1 a.m. the same night, two hours before the fatal fire.
The departments have been sparring in the county's weekly newspaper, the Box Elder News & Journal, with Thompson saying, "We respectfully disagree with the assessment Perry City has made in this case."
Perry police issued a news release this week detailing that assessment in boldface, italics and underlining. Calls to Thompson for comment were not immediately returned.
Perry officers maintain that in the 1 a.m. family fight call at the home Eric Lankford said his brother had fired off a handgun during their dispute.
State law for that reason requires that Willard police should have arrested Jeremy Lankford at that time, according to the news release. Perry Police Chief Dale Weese declined to comment beyond the release.
It quotes state law as stating, "if there is evidence that the perpetrator has either recently caused serious bodily injury or used a dangerous weapon in the domestic violence offense the officer shall arrest and take the alleged perpetrator into custody." The arrest is mandatory, reads the release, and the situation is not to be handled by issuing a citation.
Thompson has said the brothers' 1 a.m. dispute was limited to Jeremy Lankford breaking the unemployed Eric Lankford's computer equipment and TV, and the younger Lankford responding by breaking out windows of the home, which is owned by Jeremy. Eric Lankford wanted nothing done, Thompson said, and it was determined there was no assault.
Perry officers lacked jurisdiction to make an arrest in that 1 a.m. incident, according to the release, which states that although all officers have statewide arrest authority, it does not automatically extend to other jurisdictions when assisting other agencies.