Federal search warrant reveals possible suspect and motive in SLC airport fire

Posted at 4:04 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 20:10:35-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- An unsealed federal search warrant obtained by FOX 13 has revealed a potential suspect and a motive in a fire that destroyed 20 rental cars at Salt Lake City International Airport.

The July 8 fire, which caused about $500,000 in damage, was initially investigated by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to an affidavit included with the warrant. It was quietly unsealed by a federal magistrate judge on Monday.

The warrant affidavit said surveillance cameras spotted a man in the early morning hours of July 8 in the Hertz rental car lot carrying two large black bags. A short time later, he is seen carrying an unidentified object.

"After several minutes, the male was filmed running from the area of the parked cars carrying the two large bags back to his vehicle," Salt Lake Airport Police Sgt. Allen Christensen wrote. "The bags appeared to be lighter based on the way the male was carrying the bags. Shortly after the male ran from the area, a visible fire was observed and called in to Salt Lake Airport dispatch."

The affidavit said the man was seen driving out of the airport's economy lot at a high rate of speed and grabbing a white parking ticket from a kiosk and then rushing to an exit gate.

"Another camera partially shows the male's face but the male observed the camera and attempted to block his face from the camera's view," Sgt. Christensen wrote.

Police said an airport security camera captured the license plate number for the vehicle and matched a driver license photo to the man in the video. FOX 13 is not naming the man because he has not been arrested or charged. At an address listed with the warrant, a person who answered the door said the man was not home to comment.

In the affidavit, police said they learned the man was a former employee who worked at the Hertz lot but had been fired in May "due to a policy violation that involved him taking a rental vehicle home without prior authorization."

The U.S. Attorney's Office for Utah said it decided not to pursue charges, but the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office was reviewing the case.