Man charged with burning down house in scuffle with in-law, police say

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 5 2016 8:25 p.m. MST

WEST JORDAN — A West Jordan man was charged Tuesday for allegedly attacking his brother-in-law with a machete, burning down his own house with five pets inside, and confronting the police officers who rescued him from the fire.

Brandon Wayne Morgan, 36, is charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated arson, a first-degree felony, and aggravated assault, a third-degree felony. He is also charged with five counts of aggravated cruelty to an animal, a class A misdemeanor, two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child, and interference with an arresting officer, both class B misdemeanors.

Morgan was suicidal on the evening of Dec. 31 and had slit his wrists when West Jordan police arrived at his home near 6700 South and 3200 West, court documents say. The officers came face to face with Morgan, who was allegedly holding a machete and a propane torch.

Morgan refused to set down the items and yelled at the officers to kill him, his charges say. Then he turned toward police and "raised the machete," prompting one of the officers to disarm him by shocking him in the chest with a Taser, the charges state.

"Officers approached (Morgan), and he continued to resist and fight. The fire was growing rapidly as (he) continued to resist," court documents read. "(Morgan) had a lot of blood on him from cutting his wrists and was extremely combative."

Officers eventually were able to take Morgan outside, and emergency workers transported him to the hospital. Three dogs and two cats died in the fire, which destroyed the two-story home.

Morgan yelled at his brother-in-law before going to the garage to cut himself, according to court documents. There, he told his wife "that he was going to burn down the house and everything he has worked for," his charges say.

The woman told police she locked Morgan in the garage and fled the home with her two children. Morgan's brother-in-law "heard the defendant yelling that he was going to start to swing if they didn't get out of the house," charges state.

Morgan allegedly kicked open the garage door and began swinging the machete at his brother-in-law. The man reported he also escaped the home after slamming the garage door shut, causing the machete to strike the door.

Morgan told police he told his brother-in-law "to move or he would hurt him" while confronting him with the machete, charging documents say.

"(Morgan) stated … that he 'snapped' and had set the house on fire" by lighting carpet, curtains and other items, the charges state.

West Jordan police officer Ian Adams said last week that Morgan's family members were not injured. Flames were engulfing the room where Morgan was struggling with two officers before a third arrived and helped remove him, according to Adams.

"They’re some of the finest officers I think that I’ve ever met," he said at the time. "(Their) actions were among the most heroic I’ve ever seen. They really did risk their lives for this (man), who was actively fighting them and assaulting them."

The three patrol officers were treated for smoke inhalation on scene.

No initial court date has been set for Morgan, who is currently in the Salt Lake County Jail. He has no significant criminal history in Utah, court records show.

Email: blockhart@deseretnews.com

Twitter: benlockhartnews

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