Man charged in '09 robbery involving fake police officers
WEST JORDAN — A man who prosecutors say impersonated a police officer to try and commit a robbery has been charged — three years after his co-defendant was convicted and sentenced.
Michael Kelly Ulibarri, 35, was charged Tuesday in 3rd District Court with aggravated burglary, a first-degree felony. The incident happened more than three years ago, on Aug. 21, 2009.
"Several men stormed" a residence at 7699 S. Swordsman Cove (1380 West), "wearing masks, police uniforms and carrying guns while yelling, 'This is the police, get on the ground,'" according to charging documents.
Two men were bound with zip ties while the fake police officers demanded to know where the drugs and money were kept in the house, the charges state. One of the victims was hit with a shotgun, kicked in the face and punched in the head. At one point, the victims told investigators they heard one of the men say, "Kill them."
What the intruders didn't realize was that an alarm was tripped and the alarm company had called police. The first arriving officer noticed a suspicious vehicle and called for backup. When officers arrived at the house, two of the suspects were already gone, but a third was in the basement and didn't get out in time.
"So he removed his mask and police uniform, punched himself in the face, drew blood and smeared it on his shirt. Then he tied himself up" and said he was a victim, too, calling one of the other victims by his first name, the charges state.
Jacques Jason Miranda, the man who claimed he was actually a victim, was charged in 2009 with multiple counts of aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated assault. He was found guilty of aggravated burglary, a second-degree felony, last year and sentenced to one to 15 years at the Utah State Prison.
Miranda said he and Ulibarri and a teenager had stolen police gear from a supply store in North Salt Lake, and obtained zip ties from Home Depot and police patches from an Army-Navy store, though none that would tie them specifically to a local law enforcement agency. West Jordan police say the three knew their intended victims were armed and thought they stood less of a chance of being shot if they entered dressed as police.
Investigators said additional recently collected evidence allowed them to make the new arrest.
The case raises questions about how residents can tell if people entering a house claiming to be police officers are actually certified law enforcers. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said there's no foolproof way.
"Can bad people sort of fake their way in? Of course they can," he said.
However, Gill noted that cases like this are rare. Many times, people involved in home invasions are already associated with each other through the drug world.
Gill said residents have the right to ask police what agency they're from and to see a copy of any warrant. However, residents who receive a house visit by police need to comply with the officers' commands first and work out questions about authenticity later, not while a search warrant is first being executed.
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