The handling of a potentially criminal incident in which a 26-year-old Willard man was found dead in a fatal house fire provides evidence, in our opinion that the Perry Police Department and Willard police force should consolidate, with Perry assuming responsibilities for both locations.
In the early-morning hours of June 27, Willard officer Theron Fielding was contacted by Eric Lankford, 26, who told him that his brother, Jeremy Lankford, 28, had fired a gun during a dispute. Eventually, Fielding, Perry officer Scott Hancey and Box Elder Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Steve Berry went to the scene at 103 E. 100 North in Willard. It was apparent that the brothers had been fighting. In the Perry police report, recently obtained by the Standard-Examiner, officer Hancey recommended to officer Fielding that Jeremy Lankford be arrested, both for intoxication and domestic violence-related criminal mischief. However, that suggestion was not acted upon. A key reason for that action, in the report, is that officers were not sure a firearm had been discharged.
The officers left. About two hours later, the Lankford home erupted in flames. Eric Lankford's body was found in the home. Jeremy Lankford was arrested at the scene, where he was holed up in his truck, refusing to come out. He was arrested for obstruction of justice. That charge was later dropped as a homicide investigation continues. The elder Lankford is regarded as a person of interest.
Getting information about this case to the public has been difficult. Willard refuses to release any reports. Perry still refuses to release its 3 a.m. report of the case. On Nov. 21, the Standard-Examiner will appeal to the state records committee. If we fail to get that public information for our readers, the next step may be a lawsuit. This is public information which should not be hidden.
From the information we have received so far, it seems to us that having Perry assume police responsibilities in Willard is a sound idea. Perry would do a better job. With these two cities, consolidation is a smart step.