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SLC murder site subject of numerous neighbor complaints dating back months

Posted at 10:47 PM, Dec 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-31 00:47:31-05

SALT LAKE CITY — Gunshots rang through the air in the middle of the night a few days before Christmas on Kensington Avenue.

For the people whose front doors sat front row for the ensuing homicide investigation, it served as a crescendo to months-long concerns over a specific property.

"It absolutely confirmed our fears," said Nate Sase, who lives in a townhome complex that shares an alley with a commercial building at 25 East Kensington.

According to charging documents, a fight broke out inside that building around midnight December 22, leading to a triple shooting and murder just outside.

"I wouldn't say I was surprised, just based on some of the awareness that I have about what's been going on over there lately," said Clay Banasik.

A handful of neighbors told Fox 13 a tenant moved into the commercial building last spring and appeared to be living there. They said they've been reaching out to police and the city for months about that building and tenant, worried the problems they were seeing would escalate.

"It's happening right outside my front door, so I'm obviously frustrated," Banasik expressed.

At first, the link between the man shot dead in a car on the street and suspicious activity at the building itself was unclear, but charging documents soon revealed that the deadly situation did indeed start with a fight inside between a man who told police he was staying at the commercial property, and visitors.

Related: Man arrested for fatal shooting, police say

Banasik explained he's called dispatch numerous times-- sometimes multiple times a night-- to report issues to police over the past several months.

"They started to bring in a fair amount of activity into the neighborhood that was quite noticeable, especially outside my front door, with regards to finding needles in the alley and things like that," Banasik said. "They were also throwing these ungodly massive parties-- several hundred people-- until about 6 o' clock in the morning."

Sase detailed similar experiences.

"Things as small as loud noise at three/four in the morning, there's actually been gunshots heard before from that building," he recounted. "We've witnessed, I've personally witnessed, people going in the building, coming out, sitting in their cars and smoking some type of substance out of pipe-- and I've called police on issues like that."

Sase previously told Fox 13 about a time that a man was trying to break into his home while he was inside. He and Banasik talked about how people from that building would wander over and bang on the windows or try to open gates and doors at the townhomes.

Related: Ballpark neighbors explain shooting, homicide highlight deeper problem in area

A third person sent screen shots of at least seven different code enforcement complaints made on the Salt Lake City mobile app, over things like dumped trash at the property and broken street lights.

The neighbor also said they sent a letter with their concerns to different city departments and also reached out to Salt Lake City Council members.

A letter provided to Fox 13 dated from September outlines the specific problems this neighbor had with the property.

"...if left unaddressed this will develop into an unmanageable issue that the Police department and other city officials are left to try and deal with," the letter reads. "The issues coming out of this property have skyrocketed to the point that residents here feel unsafe and unhappy living here."

Salt Lake City Police said officers are constantly driving by Kensington Avenue, trying to be proactive.

"I know that Kensington [Avenue] is an area that we are very aware of, yes," said Detective Marie Stewart.

But she explained that cracking down on a problem property can be challenging.

"Going and busting down a door and making an arrest on small misdemeanor drug charge is a Band-Aid," Det. Stewart said. "To build a good case, it takes months."

She indicated that they are often building cases behind-the-scenes, without the knowledge of the public or next-door neighbors.

Even if they do swoop in and make arrests, she detailed the issues with a revolving door at the jail.

"You book them into jail and then they're out fairly quickly," Det. Stewart said. "So, there's another reason why it may look like nothing's being done. Because we are constantly arresting the same people, booking them into jail, over and over again."

Det. Stewart explained that every neighbor experiencing issues should keep calling police every time there is an issue. It helps them a lot, she said.

But for neighbors like Banasik and Sase, things didn't move fast enough. Ultimately, someone was murdered steps away from their homes.

"I wasn't necessarily upset with anybody's behavior, but it never really happens as quickly as you want it to," Banasik said.

"We've been calling for 10 months, and nothing ever changed," Sase said. "So at what point does that turn into action?"

They each did express hope that last week's shooting and homicide will become a turning point. While real change remains to be seen, they said perhaps new tenants will move in, and make the space safer for the neighborhood.

"It seems like the tide is shifting now," Banasik said, adding, "but TBD."