NORTH OGDEN — A threat against the North Ogden City Council forced an abrupt, temporary end to the body’s meeting Tuesday night and resulted in some tense moments for city leaders and those attending.
A statement Wednesday from the North Ogden Police Department said an “unknown male” called Weber Area Dispatch twice around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, making threats directed at the meeting, without naming any specific targets.
“The caller indicated that a firearm and explosives would be used,” said the statement. Officers from North Ogden, Harrisville and Pleasant View “were on the scene within minutes and secured the city building and surrounding areas.”
A dog trained to track explosives was also called to the scene, detecting no threats, and the matter remains under investigation. Officials aren’t sure what motivated the threat.
Mayor Brent Chugg called Tuesday’s meeting to an abrupt end at around 9 p.m. in light of the threat, according to Stefanie Casey, a North Ogden resident who attended. Council members subsequently left the chambers while Casey and others in the audience were escorted to the basement of the City Hall structure, at 505 E. 2600 North, she said. They remained there until around 10:30 p.m., when they were allowed to leave, according to Casey.
“It’s like you’re at a city council meeting talking about dorky little city issues and then someone threatens to shoot,” Meg Sanders, another North Ogden resident who was at the meeting, said Wednesday, after the fact.
City leaders referred queries on the matter to police. Sanders, meanwhile, said she had noticed unusual movement of leaders and police coming in and out of the gathering before it came to an end. Worried, she finally asked from the audience what was going on as leaders were discussing a planned new stormwater detention pond.
Video of the meeting, posted on the city’s YouTube page, conveys the response of city leaders.
“The officer mentioned to us that someone was talking about shooting up city council and so we’ve got officers surrounding the place and the doors are locked,” Mayor Brent Chugg says, according to the video.
In response, a woman from the audience, citing her experience as an teacher, questions the protocol of continuing with the meeting despite the apparent threat.
“This is not what we do,” the unidentified woman says, according to the video. “We bolt the doors closed, you move away from the windows, you make the lights so that you’re not sitting as a target. But that’s just my training.”
In response, councilman Phil Swanson and then Chugg address the woman’s remarks.
“Right at the moment we’re doing what the (North Ogden Police Department) advised us to do for just the next couple of moments,” Councilman Phil Swanson says in the video.
“If there’s any other threat we’re going to adjourn the meeting,” Chugg adds.
After that, the discussion on the planned stormwater pond continues, and about 10 minutes later, the video shows a police officer approaching Chugg on the council dais to tell him something. That’s when the mayor calls for a quick end to the meeting, according to the video. “We’re going to close the meeting at this time so meeting is adjourned,” Chugg says.
Council members stand up to leave and the officer addresses the audience, shortly before the video ends. “Can I have everybody sit tight in your chairs for just a second. Sit tight for one second. Council, please step out,” the officer says.
Casey, speaking Wednesday, said the moments as the meeting was called to a quick end and as council members left the council chambers were particularly nerve-wracking.
“That’s really when I was scared,” she said. “We’re all just sitting there in our chairs... We just felt really exposed.”
Going downstairs, both Sanders and Casey said they saw a policeman with an assault rifle. Casey caught a glimpse through a window of officers out in the courtyard in front of the city building. Once in the basement, however, they felt relief.
Late Wednesday afternoon, North Ogden police issued a second press release in reaction to “questions regarding the police response,” describing how law enforcement handled the situation. Officers arrived within a minute of the threatening calls, checked on proceedings in council chambers and advised Chugg what was going on.
“At the same time, additional officers were already in the process of establishing a perimeter and securing the premises,” making sure there was no threat from the outside around doors and windows, according to the press release. “In the meantime, additional officers were conducting a search of the remainder of the City Hall interior, ensuring that the building was clear of any potential threats.”
Police searched audience members and checked their cell phones before they left, Sanders and Casey said. At around 10:30 p.m., council members reconvened to finish the meeting, according to Jon Call, the North Ogden city attorney. The only remaining items on the city council agenda were three requests for retail beer licenses and they were approved.