Farmington officials target of hostile calls, criticism after deadly police incident
FARMINGTON — Since the shooting death of Chase Allan in a confrontation with Farmington police, officials in the city have been inundated with calls from around the country from critics, many seemingly angry over police handling of the matter.
City Manager Brigham Mellor has fielded many of the calls, he said, along with Mayor Brett Anderson. Most of the critics — who charge that the police response in the matter was heavy-handed and out of proportion — aren’t from local people.
“They just want somebody to yell at,” Mellor said.
In the absence of higher-ranking city officials, receptionists and other city employees have also had to contend with angry callers, critical of the police response in the March 1 incident and suspicious of the city’s handling of the aftermath. Given the intensity of the emotions, Mellor said, city officials are giving the callers space to vent lest the tensions escalate.
“You got to just let them do it,” he said. “We’re just kind of being the punching bag right now.”
Allan — whose comments during the confrontation with police seemed to correspond with the “sovereign” movement, broadly an anti-federal government movement — was pulled over by a Farmington officer on March 1 because his car didn’t have license plates. He didn’t cooperate with the officer, backup officers came, and when Allan refused to comply with their orders to get out of the vehicle, they tried to forcibly remove him. On seeing Allan had a gun and worried, apparently, he would use it on them, the five officers present collectively fired multiple rounds, killing him.
The five officers are now on paid leave, per department policy, and the Davis County Critical Incident Protocol Team is investigating.
Aside from phone calls, Mellor said the city has fielded “hundreds” of public records requests related to the incident — for footage from the body cameras used by the responding officers and Police Chief Eric Johnsen’s personnel file, among other things. The body camera footage has been publicly released.
Moreover, at Tuesday’s regular Farmington City Council meeting, several people critical of the police response addressed the officials. They took to the podium during an unrelated public hearing on the city’s proposal to acquire a 6.5-acre parcel of land to augment public space in Farmington.
Kerry Lund of Clearfield was among the speakers. He referred to the five responding policemen as “code enforcement officers.”
“What’s the city going to do to train their code enforcement officers to keep from killing our kids? This has to end,” Lund said. He went on: “That poor kid just had no license plate, no license plate on his car. And it took five code enforcement officers — dragged him out of his car and killed him.”
Carolyn Lieutuvininkas of Ogden, who’s spoken out at Ogden City Council meetings, also took to the podium. She made an apparent reference to the lack of tags on Allan’s car and her contention that the right to travel in the country is “unrestricted.” In the back-and-forth with police on March 1, Allan said he didn’t need car registration “and I don’t answer questions.”
Lieutuvininkas also alluded to a looming court proceeding in an unspecified case in which Allan was apparently going to testify.
“They murdered a witness,” she said. “I can’t believe this is the tyranny that exists in our city and towns. I’m astounded by that. I’ve seen more freedom in the other 25 countries I’ve been than we have right now here in the United States. And it has to stop.”
She reminded the Farmington officials of a link to a book she had sent them that explains the right of free travel, an apparent reference to her contention that the right to travel is “unrestricted.”
“The question you should all be asking is, ‘Why don’t I know that information? Why do my police officers not know that information? What is going on in our education and legal framework that has kept that information from us?'” she said.
A man who identified himself as Walt English of Syracuse took aim at the first responding officer in the March 1 incident. Officials haven’t publicly identified the officers involved.
“And I’ll call him a coward and I don’t care if you like it or not,” English said. “Because he has a gun, a billy club, spray, a knife, a bulletproof vest, handcuffs, a Taser. What is he afraid of and why did he go so fast? Your police department needs deescalation training really bad.”
Mellor, speaking Friday, said officials took no action in response to the comments, just listened. Aside from the ongoing probe into the incident itself, he said Farmington officials are reviewing policies that govern the sort of incident that occurred on March 1 and whether the officers responded appropriately.
Not everyone is taking aim at the city. Mellor said some have stopped by City Hall, concerned about the well-being of the officers involved. The critics, though, seem to be making a bigger splash. Broadly, Mellor said the naysayers seem to be critics of government and conspiracy minded.
“There’s a lot of conspiracy theories associated with this,” he said, including claims by some that city officials doctored the police body camera footage, which Mellor assures is not the case. “You can’t change their mind on anything. That won’t happen.”
Some of the critics have left behind legal materials and other paperwork to bolster their contentions, Mellor said. He’s read some of it but it never has the clarity and cohesive explanation boosters claim it offers.
“It can get a little exhausting,” he said.