Walkers say the Washington County Sheriff’s Office did a poor job of investigating the man’s alleged threats against people who walk dogs off-leash

St George • Hikers who claim to have been threatened by a 71-year-old Ivins man while walking their dogs off-leash say Washington County Sheriff’s investigators did a random job in investigating the incidents.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office announced earlier this month that it was dropping an investigation into an incident in which the man, whose identity is being withheld, allegedly threatened to walk a woman and her dog off-leash on a bureau path of land management in Santa Claus shoot Klara Reserve.

“Based on the interviews and evidence gathered, the deputies did not have sufficient evidence at this point to bring charges against anyone,” sheriff’s investigators said in a Dec. 20 news release, while reminding residents that statewide leash laws are mandated that dogs must be leashed at state and federal level.

St. George resident Jaden Turner and others who clashed with the man are not impressed and argue the sheriff’s office hasn’t done enough.

What particularly annoys her is that the Ivins resident – who they say is armed with a machete and a pistol – in hiking shorts, a warm-up jacket with a Second Amendment patch, and a floppy hat reminiscent of the one actor the Bob Denver, who patrols the trails on the sitcom Gilligan’s Island, has a history of alleged threats of violence against dog owners in two states, Utah and Wyoming.

“The sheriff’s [office] took a very serious and frightening offense and turned it into a discussion of leash laws,” lamented Turner.

Turner said she encountered the man while walking her dog, Baz, off-leash on Dec. 5 not far from the Tukupetsi Trailhead. She says she remembers watching him climb the hill in front of her, start swearing at her while drawing a pistol, and threatening to shoot her and the dog if she didn’t put Baz on a leash.

She said she never heard from two sheriff’s investigators, although she did give them leads on other incidents. St George resident Lance Snarr, who told The Tribune about his two encounters with the same man on trails in the Red Cliffs Reserve area, has also never heard from investigators.

When Snarr witnessed a few months ago the man verbally assaulted a young woman as she walked her off-leash dog, Snarr became convinced that the alleged vigilante posed a serious threat to public safety under the Leash Act. He said the same man verbally abused and threatened him for momentarily taking his dog off the leash while walking the Paradise Rim Trail a few weeks ago.

“The sheriff’s office has not contacted me nor made any attempt to my knowledge,” Snarr said in a text to The Tribune, which he added was “very disturbing.”

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment.

Sheriff’s investigators were able to locate and question the suspect about the Turner incident, which they characterized as a case of “he said she said.” But after The Tribune’s Dec. 15 article about the incident and other altercations, the sheriff’s office told Fox 13 News the following day that it was reopening the case because others had had similar encounters. The investigation was discontinued four days later.

In their interviews with the Ivins resident, sheriff’s investigators said he told them he felt threatened by Turner’s dog, “pulled out his gun and held it in front of him but pointed it.” [it] down to the ground to cover himself if the dog starts attacking him.” According to the Dec. 20 press release, he denied pointing a gun at Turner and threatening her.

The press release said nothing about the other alleged incidents in the St. George area. Several arguments the man had at his other place of residence in Star Valley Ranch, Wyoming, were also not mentioned.

Wyoming Complaints

The Tribune, which will not reveal the man’s identity because no charges have been filed against him, learned that he was involved in at least two altercations with residents of Star Valley Ranch, one of which involved off-leash dogs.

On June 27, 2022, according to Star Valley Ranch Special Municipality Officer Jim Rogers, the man was walking when two off-leash dogs ran out of a garage and began barking at him.

“A couple of little dogs took to the streets to say hello to him,” Rogers said. “You are not malicious. I know this person’s dogs.”

According to reports Rogers compiled, the man threatened to kill the two dogs and, machete in hand, began yelling and walking towards the pet owner, who was in his driveway. At that point, a neighbor reportedly heard the commotion, saw the man approaching the dogs’ owner with a machete and felt the need to intervene.

“He came out with a gun and told the man to fall [the machete] or I’ll drop you,” Rogers said. “So the guy [with the machete] just walked away.”

The same day, the man filed a report with the city and later with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, claiming that he was attacked by two large dogs.

“Luckily I had my machete with me and was able to fend off the dogs,” he said in the ad, adding that he wanted the dogs’ owner and the neighbor who pointed a gun at him to be prosecuted.

In an interview with the complainant, Rogers said the man told him and told others that he was a former federal agent who worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration. The DEA’s national office in Virginia did not respond to a request to confirm the man’s claims.

Another incident at Star Valley Ranch — this time involving the man and his neighbor Terry Martin — occurred in September. Martin claims he was threatened by his neighbor when the two sidestepped about a job the man wanted Martin’s brother to do on his property.

When Martin told his neighbor that his brother was refusing to help, he said the man “got berserk and started swearing and yelling at me and calling me a liar. Then he said to me, ‘If you come on my property, I’ll take you out.’ He really walked in at the deep end. he walks around [Star Valley] Ranch in his goofy looking Mickey Mouse outfit and carrying a machete and a 9mm pistol.”

Martin did not press charges, but was concerned enough to call the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office to alert deputies to the threat.

Lincoln County Sheriff Shane Johnson is aware of the incident and confirmed his office was investigating the altercation between the man, the dog owner and his neighbor in June but decided not to press charges.

Speaking to the man, Johnson said he told him the neighbor saw him with the machete, perceived a threat and acted accordingly by drawing a gun to end the threat.

“He felt like we were siding with the guy who pulled the gun…” Johnson said. “And he left angry and called me crooked.”

Lincoln County Sheriff’s officials learned of the Utah incidents involving the man when Star Valley Ranch officials saw a television news report on the Turner incident and relayed the information to them.

To the best of his knowledge, Johnson said, the Washington County Sheriff’s Deputies never contacted anyone in his office to discuss the man’s altercations in Wyoming. Rogers said Star Valley Ranch officials also hadn’t heard from investigators in Utah.

Report request denied

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office has denied the Tribune’s request for public records for the deputies’ report on the Turner incident and other altercations involving the Ivins man. The Tribune has appealed this rejection.

The sheriff’s office promises to deploy four deputies to patrol lanes in rural areas to address public safety concerns. However, Turner said such assurances mean nothing because four MPs were already given the job before the clashes took place.

Despite the promise of patrols, Ivins resident Sedona Arabella is still so concerned about her safety that she plans to take a GoPro camera with her when hiking the area’s trails. Turner said she just bought a $7 machete.

“Just for fun,” she said.

https://www.sltrib.com/news/2023/01/03/hikers-say-washington-county/ Walkers say the Washington County Sheriff’s Office did a poor job of investigating the man’s alleged threats against people who walk dogs off-leash

Justin Scacco

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