SALT LAKE CITY — Fifteen officers from three police agencies have been placed on standard paid administrative leave following Monday's dramatic shootout with a man who was driving around Salt Lake City randomly firing an assault rifle out the window.
On Tuesday, a day after Harold Vincent Robinson, 37, of West Valley City, was killed by police in a hail of gunfire, it was announced that 10 Salt Lake police officers, three Utah Highway Patrol troopers and two Unified police officers are on leave.
Officers are typically placed on leave when they fire their weapons while on duty.
"Yesterday, we dealt with one of the most dangerous situations that any department can be engaged in,” Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said Tuesday. "This is our worst nightmare: an active shooter that’s mobile in a truck."
Neither Brown, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera, nor Brian Redd, chief investigator for the Utah Department of Public Safety, gave many new details Tuesday about what happened Monday or what investigators have since learned about Robinson. However, per Salt Lake City's protocol, Brown said his department will hold another press conference within 10 days to show body camera video and provide additional details about the case.
The dramatic series of events began just after 10 a.m. when Robinson robbed a Holiday Oil, 2729 W. 4700 South in Taylorsville, for beer. A customer confronted Robinson who then pulled a handgun out of his waistband and ran, according to a joint statement from Unified and Salt Lake police and UHP.
At 10:37 a.m. robbery was reported at 7-Eleven at 911 E. 3300 South in Millcreek where Robinson demanded cash from the register at gunpoint, police stated.
"As the male left, he fired the handgun inside the store. No injuries were reported," according to the statement.
At 10:42 a.m., the first reported shots were fired downtown when witnesses said "bursts of rapid fire" erupted near the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel, 150 W. 500 South. One witness said between eight and 12 shots were fired at a specific window of a hotel room on the first floor.
From those first shots until Robinson was killed, Brown said Robinson drove around downtown Salt Lake City and along State Street into South Salt Lake for 19 minutes, randomly firing out his window.
At 10:44 a.m., shots were reported near 111 S. Main.
At 10:51 a.m., Robinson fired shots near 500 S. State.
At 10:53 a.m., shots were fired at 500 South and 200 East.
At 10:55 a.m. Salt Lake police officers and UHP troopers working downtown as part of Operation Rio Grande spotted Robinson's truck and a chase ensued.
"Confirm, he has an AR-15 in his hands as he’s driving,” an officer chasing Robinson is heard telling others on his police radio.
At 1300 S. State an officer reports, "Firing rounds out the window. Two shots fired."
As the situation became more intense, an officer in the pursuit states, "We gotta get up there and shoot this guy. He’s a danger to everybody," according to a Broadcastify police scanner recording.
Brown said officers attempted to flatten the fleeing truck's tires using spike strips but were unsuccessful.
"A modified PIT maneuver" was attempted at 3300 S. State just before the pickup truck crashed into a business at 3339 S. State, "at which time shots were exchanged with the suspect and officers," according to the joint statement.
Information about how many dozens of shots were fired, whether Robinson was still in his truck when he died, or what caused the truck to crash into the front of Princess Alterations and Leatherwork was not given on Tuesday.
“I just heard all the noises and explosions and just everything was being thrown at me,” store owner Thaer Mahdi said through his son, Bassam Hassan. “Around me was just the sewing machines, and I just froze in my place — just shaking.”
When the gunfire stopped, Mahdi said he saw Robinson dead on the ground. As police closed in, he said he was grateful they didn't mistake him for a second suspect.
"They saw me very scared and they just helped me out of there,” the tailor said of the officers who saw him and came to check on him. “I’m just glad they didn’t shoot me and believed I wasn’t involved in any of it.”
Police say what prompted Robinson to go on such a violent spree is still under investigation.
"We don’t know the motive,” Brown said.
One officer suffered a minor injury from being grazed by a ricochet shot. But Rivera said despite the random firing of gunshots throughout the city, and the dozens and dozens of shots fired at the end of the chase, no other injuries were reported.
"Just the totality of what occurred, we are very, very fortunate,” she said.
With 10 Salt Lake officers being placed on leave, the department now has a total of 17 officers on leave from officer-involved shooting incidents dating back a year.
"It’s hard. It’s tough. That’s not easy to absorb. We had to readjust some schedules yesterday, bring some officers in and pay some overtime. And we’ll probably have to do that for the next few weeks until we can figure out where this is going to go and how long this is going to take,” Brown said.
West Valley police will lead the investigation into the officer-involved shooting part of the case.
While again praising all officers for working together and putting an end to the threat without any major injuries to the public, both Rivera and Brown said their departments will look at Monday's incident to determine if there are ways they can improve their responses.
"There are lessons to be learned. This is new territory,” Brown said.
"We know society is changing and these types of things will continue to occur, but we have to be ready,” Rivera added.
According to state court records, Robinson has a lengthy history of mostly misdemeanor crimes, many of which were later dismissed after they were filed. In June, a charge of assault was dismissed when the state’s witness failed to show up for court.
In 2003, he was convicted of assault that caused substantial body injury. Two counts of aggravated kidnapping and robbery were dismissed as part of a plea deal. In a separate 2003 case, a charge of aggravated kidnapping was dismissed when the state’s witness again failed to show.
Robinson, acting as his own attorney, filed several civil lawsuits against various federal, state and local government agencies and officers, according to records in U.S. District Court.43 comments on this story
Robinson pleaded guilty in federal court to possessing a sawed-off shotgun and was sentenced to 42 months of probation in June 2002. In April 2003, federal prosecutors alleged he violated his probation by threatening to kill a person identified as K.N. while having access to a sawed-off shotgun.
Robinson admitted to the violation and a federal judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison and ordered him to complete an anger management program in December 2003. He was released from prison in February 2005 and placed on 36 months of probation.
Contributing: Dennis Romboy, Andrew Adams