Hatchet Wielding Utah Man Held at Gunpoint by Citizen

A hatchet wielding man was held at gunpoint by a citizen after a confrontation with another individual in Provo Utah.

Crosswalk road rage

Photo by: Kyle

55 year old Galen Williams was driving along a Provo, Utah road when he didn’t obey proper rules or etiquette regarding a crosswalk and pulled too far over the crossing lines. An individual who may have been in the crosswalk when Williams approached got into a verbal altercation and was then followed by Williams into a nearby parking lot. There Williams attempted to confront the individual but was stopped by the victim’s father. Williams struck the father in the face with his fist then went to the back of his vehicle and retrieved a hatchet. The father took a firearm from his own vehicle and pointed it at the hatchet wielding Williams until police could arrive.

Aggravated assault

Officers from the Orem Police Department arrived and arrested Williams for assault and aggravated assault.  The assault charges stem from the punch Williams conferred upon the victim’s father and resulted in a class A misdemeanor for the defendant. The Aggravated assault charge is due to the hatchet, even though it wasn’t actually used against another person. Utah Code 76-5-103 states “Aggravated assault is an actor’s conduct that is:

  • An attempt, with unlawful force or violence, to do bodily injury to another;
  • A threat, accompanied by a show of immediate force or violence, to do bodily injury to another; or
  • An act, commit with unlawful force or violence, that causes bodily injury to another or creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another; and . . . includes the use of a dangerous weapon”.

Although Williams may have had no plans to actually use the hatchet on one of the victims, he displayed the dangerous weapon during an altercation which could have been taken as a threat of violence with the hatchet. Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon that does not result in serious bodily injury is a third degree felony.

No charges for the armed citizen

Williams was not the only individual to display a weapon during the confrontation in the parking lot. The father of the victim who turned into a victim himself after being punched in the face pulled a gun on Williams during the incident.  Although the father’s choice of a firearm is also considered a dangerous weapon and had the potential to do more harm from a distance, he will not face any charges for pulling a gun on his assailant.  This is due to Utah law giving people the right to defend themselves.

Force in defense of person

Utah Code 76-2-402 states “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. . . . A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” That section goes on to warn that “A person is not justified in using force . . . if the person:

  • Initially provokes the use of force . . . as an excuse to inflict bodily harm upon the assailant;
  • Is attempting to commit . . . or fleeing after . . . a felony. . . :
  • Was the aggressor or was engaged in combat by agreement. . . “

Since the father of the victim was not the one to start the fight and didn’t intentionally aggravate Williams to make him reach for the hatchet, his choice to pull a loaded firearm on Williams in his defense was justified.  Anyone who may be facing aggravated assault charges for displaying or using a weapon during an altercation is encouraged to speak with an attorney to see if their case may actually constitute force in defense of person.

Aggressive Driving Versus Road Rage

Many drivers are guilty of showing hostility to other drivers occasionally but when does aggressive driving escalate to road rage, and what difference does it make legally?

Utah drivers

Photo by: State Farm

Driving can be a stressful event when dealing with other drivers on the road that don’t always make the best decisions. Although bad drivers are literally everywhere, residents of the Beehive State seem to think that the majority of horrible drivers call Utah home. Many Utah drivers will encounter (or cause) at least one incident a day that shows inexperience, poor judgement, disregard for other drivers, or distraction on the road. When these events occur it can be upsetting and how drivers handle their annoyance or anger towards other drivers could make the difference between whether or not they face criminal charges.

Four vehicles – one life lost

Early last month, hundreds of vehicles heading north towards St. George, Utah on I-15 remained at a standstill for several hours, after authorities processed the scene of a road rage incident that claimed the life of innocent driver on the opposite side of the freeway. There is no information on what caused the road rage, but fellow drivers reported three vehicles that were headed southbound on I-15 were being driven aggressively when things quickly escalated. In an attempt to pass a car on the inside shoulder, one of the drivers involved lost control and struck a northbound vehicle, killing 69 year old Michael Prinaris of Henderson, Nevada instantly.

Aggressive driving

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines aggressive driving as “The operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger persons or property.” They state that an aggressive driver may display the following behaviors:

• “Following too closely,
• Driving at excessive speeds,
• Weaving through traffic, and
• Running red lights and signs, among other acts”.

Road rage

Photo by: Mike Kline

The NHTSA states, “aggressive driving occasionally escalates to gesturing in anger or yelling at another motorist, confrontation, physical assault, and even murder. ( . . . ) Road rage is the label that emerged to describe the angry and violent behaviors at the extreme of the aggressive driving continuum.” The turning point between aggressive driving and road rage is someone can drive aggressively, possibly putting others on the road in danger while road rage is deliberate actions intended to do harm to another driver.

Aggressive driving a.k.a reckless driving

According to the NHTSA “an important distinction is that aggressive driving is a traffic violation, while road rage, aside from the yelling and gesticulating, is a criminal offence.” While it is true that more serious criminal consequences can occur from committing acts of road rage, the state of Utah actually punishes aggressive drivers as well. Utah Code 41-6a-528 defines reckless driving as when a person operating a vehicle does so “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; or while committing three or more moving traffic violations ( . . . ) [within]three miles of less in total distance.” Utah’s definition of reckless driving sounds a lot like what can occur during aggressive driving and that can result in class B misdemeanor charges.

Misdemeanor charges for road rage

Road rage is punishable by whatever criminal act a person performed because they were angry at another driver. Beyond reckless driving charges, road rage can also produce charges of:

• Misdemeanor assault if one driver physically assaulted the other driver;
• Threat of violence; also a misdemeanor charge;
• Possession of deadly weapon (vehicle) with criminal intent, a class A misdemeanor.

Felony road rage charges

Photo by:Beau Giles

Unfortunately for many cases, Road rage can also result in felony charges such as:

• Aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon, a third degree felony;
• Manslaughter, a second degree felony; or even
• Aggravated murder, a first degree felony.

Anyone facing charges related to an aggressive driving or road rage incident should seek the help of an attorney immediately.

Shots Fired During Domestic Dispute at Southern Utah Home

An early morning domestic dispute at a southern Utah home ended in shots being fired and the SWAT team being dispatched.

Discharge of a weapon

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff's Office

Photo by: Washington County Sheriff’s Office

Over three hours before sunrise on Sunday morning, residents of the quiet Tonaquint Terrace neighborhood in Southern Utah were awakened to the sound of gunshots coming from the home of John Christian Cole. Within minutes, the SWAT team had Cole’s house surround and nearly five hours after law enforcement was called, Cole was arrested without further incident.

Escalated marital spat

Investigators have determined that Cole was quarrelling with his wife when their domestic disputed escalated and he discharged a firearm. No one was reported to be seriously injured, including the couple’s two children who were also inside the residence at the time of the shooting. Among his charges however was listed a domestic violence simple assault, so it is assumed there might have been a minor physical altercation before or after Cole fired those shots in his home.

Felony charges following domestic dispute

Domestic Dispute

Photo by: madstreetz

According to the Washington County Sherriff’s Office bookings report, Cole was charged with simple assault; felony discharge of a weapon; possession of marijuana; and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child which were deemed aggravated since a dangerous weapon was used. Cole faces two misdemeanor charges as well as three third degree felonies which can each carry a five year prison sentences.

Anger management and proper storage of firearms

As with most arguments between spouses, things have the potential to intensify rapidly and it is always wise to have a strategy in place to allow each individual the time and space needed to regain a cool head; this is especially true when children are present. Additionally, properly storing firearms out of direct reach, unloaded, and under lock and key may deter any rash decisions to include said firearms in a domestic dispute. For those seeking counsel following poor decisions during a domestic dispute, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who is experienced in handling domestic violence cases.