WILLARD -- The Perry Police Department has released its report of its involvement in a disorderly conduct call that came just two hours before the caller was found dead in a fatal house fire in Willard.
Eric Lankford, 26, was identified from dental records after his body was discovered in the ruins of the June 27 fire at the home he shared with his brother Jeremy, 28.
The Perry report is the first to be released of four sought by the Standard-Examiner via Utah Government Records Access and Management Act requests of the Perry and the Willard police forces on the death. The requested reports relate to the 3 a.m. fatal fire and the disturbance call two hours earlier.
Willard has declined to release either the 1 a.m. or the 3 a.m. reports, while Perry has decined to release its 3 a.m. account.
Both agencies have said the fact the investigation of the younger Lankford's death is ongoing, now in its fifth month, is the chief reason for the refusal. Jeremy Lankford has been referred to as a person on interest in the investigation.
The Standard-Examiner has appealed the Willard denials, with a Nov. 21 hearing set with the State Records Committee. The hearing is the last step for non-judicial appeals under GRAMA. A lawsuit may be filed by a records requestor if access to documents is denied.
The Perry report released Monday under GRAMA reveals that three officers, not just two, responded to the disturbance at the Lankford home at 103 E. 100 North in Willard. the call stemming from the brothers quarrelling.
In addition to Perry officer Scott Hancey and Willard officer Theron Fielding, Box Elder County Sheriff's Sgt. Steve Berry responded to the scene. Fielding had initially been flagged down by Eric Lankford, who told him Jeremy Lankford had fired a gun during their dispute.
The Willard department has been subject to criticism for not arresting Jeremy Lankford that night.
The Perry report shows that Hancey had recommended Fielding arrest the older Lankford on grounds of domestic violence-related criminal mischief and intoxication. But in further discussion among the three officers, against Hancey's advice it was decided no gun had been fired, because no other nearby residences had called it in, according to the Perry report. The report said Fielding concluded, "This is a case of both parties breaking each other's stuff."
In the quarrel, Eric Lankford broke windows in the house after Jeremy had broken his computer equipment, and both men had been drinking, the report said.
Willard Police Chief Nate Thompson, while declining to release his agency's reports, has said Eric Lankford recanted his initial claim, denying his brother had fired a shot. Thompson also said Eric Lankford asked that his brother not be arrested.
In his report, Hancey said Jeremy Lankford "refused to talk ... and just stared at us in a dazed manner. (He) eventually walked away and locked himself in the house. I never heard him say one word."
Jeremy Lankford was later arrested at the scene of the 3 a.m. fire when he refused to come out of his truck at the fire scene. Officers had to break a window to remove him from the vehicle. He was charged with a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice, later dismissed as the homicide investigation continued.
Contact reporter Tim Gurrister at (801)625-4238, firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tgurrister