3 Salt Lake City cops assaulted within 3 hours in Rio Grande district

Posted at 9:26 PM, Sep 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-14 23:26:47-04

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah -- Three Salt Lake City police officers were assaulted in three separate incidents all within three hours, and they all happened Tuesday morning outside the Road Home on Rio Grande.

"We want the public to be more aware of what police officers are dealing with," Detective Robert Ungricht said. "We have a lot more officers down there taking enforcement action on things that are going on around the shelter."

However, with more police comes more vulnerability, according to Tuesday morning's crime log.

The first attack came at 8:29 a.m. and involved a man on 235 South Rio Grande Street.

"He threw a water bottle at one of the officers, nearly hitting the officer in the head... while in the back seat of the patrol car, the man yelled that he wished he had a gun so he could shoot the officer in the back," the crime log states.

Ungricht said that kind of encounter isn't uncommon.

"You hear that a lot, they make a lot of general threats towards us, you know, things they want to do to us, that's pretty typical," he said.

A second attack involved a woman who was being detained at 9:03 a.m.

"The officer placed the woman in handcuffs...while being assisted to the ground, the suspect kicked the officer in the knee," the crime log states.

A third attack caught the officers completely by surprise at 10:45 a.m.

"Officers working foot patrol in the area of the shelter encountered a black female adult, who walked toward the officers and took a swing at one of them," the crime log states.

Police say due to overcrowding at the jail, it's often the same people getting arrested over and over again.

"All your class Bs and class A offenses, misdemeanor offenses, and we're not able to get those people into the jail," Ungricht said. "We have to keep going out and dealing with them, and we keep having to enforce the same thing over and over."

Glenn Baily, of Crossroads Urban Center, works with homeless people on a daily basis. He says the police presence is necessary, but too much can be antagonizing for some.

"A lot of different nuisance citations, jaywalking, loitering, camping, many things that for people on the street are really part of their daily existence," Bailey said.

Sherome Whitsett is one of many who call Rio Grande home. He says there is never a reason to attack a police officer.

"It's not the officers, please don't blame them, they are doing a superb job and I tell them as much as I possibly can," Whitsett said.

The number of homeless people in Salt Lake City has risen by 7 percent over the last year, according to the Utah Department of Workforce Services.