MONTICELLO — San Juan County's sheriff, chief deputy and a sergeant will remain on active duty despite two of them facing felony charges.
County commissioners released a prepared statement Monday saying Sheriff Rick Eldredge, Chief Deputy Alan Freestone and Sgt. Rob Wilcox will remain on duty as the cases against them play out in court.
"The board believes that placing these officers on administrative leave at this time would create an undue public safety risk for county residents. Therefore, the sheriff and his deputies will remain on active duty until the legal proceedings have concluded," according to the statement.
The commissioners noted that the sheriff's office has just 11 field officers, including the sheriff and chief deputy, who serve and provide protection for Utah's largest county by area.
Eldredge, 48, and Freestone, 57, were charged Friday in 7th District Court with retaliation against a witness, a third-degree felony; obstruction of justice, a class A misdemeanor; and official misconduct, a class B misdemeanor.
Eldredge was also charged with reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
Wilcox, 46, faces the same reckless endangerment, obstruction of justice and official misconduct charges.
The case dates back to May 26, 2015, when Eldredge allegedly pointed an empty assault rifle at another employee and pulled the trigger.
After the employee tried to report it, the Utah Attorney General's Office believes Eldredge, Freestone and Wilcox attempted to cover up their actions by providing false information to investigators and by conducting an incomplete internal investigation.
The employee was later fired after the sheriff claimed the attorney general's office had finished its investigation and found no allegation of wrongdoing, according to the charges.
If convicted, each of the men could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.