Utah Man Impersonating an Officer Arrested For Making Death Threats

A Utah man impersonating an officer was arrested earlier this month after he made death threats against two men in Saratoga Springs.

Racial hatred

Photo by: HonestReporting

41 year old Jerred Martin Loftus of Eagle Mountain, Utah was arrested after he aggressively approached two men walking on a trail whom he accused of being in the United States illegally. Angry at the men for no apparent reason other than their ethnicity, Loftus told the men he was a correctional officer and threaten to shoot them and hide their bodies. The frightened men called police while Loftus fled the scene on foot, leaving his vehicle nearby with his firearm and ammunition inside. Loftus was later apprehended and charged with aggravated assault and impersonating an officer.

Impersonating an officer

Loftus told the men he was a correctional officer, and while it is unknown if he had been previously, at the time was not an authorized law enforcement official of any kind. Utah Code 76-8-512 defines impersonating an officer as when an individual:

(1) “Impersonates a public servant of a peace officer with intent to deceive another or with intent to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended official act;

(2) Falsely states he is a public servant or a peace officer with intent to deceive another or to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended act; or

(3) Displays or possesses without authority any badge, identification card, other form of identification, any restraint device, or the uniform of any state or local government entity, or a reasonable facsimile of any of these items, with the intent to deceive another or with the intent to induce another to submit to his pretended official authority or to rely upon his pretended official act.”

Impersonating an officer is a class B misdemeanor and punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Threatening to kill someone while impersonating an officer is punishable as a second degree felony, with up to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Mental Health Issues and Criminal Behavior

As the link between mental health issues and criminal behavior is being researched, disorders such as depression and schizophrenia that were previously taboo to speak about are finally being seen and discussed as actual medical conditions needing attention and treatment.

An empty threat

Photo by: Thomanication

Photo by: Thomanication

On Monday, 35 year old Eagle Mountain resident Christopher Dewitt Craig drove to his 9 year old daughter’s elementary school and demanded the school be evacuated; afterwards telling police there were explosives in his vehicle. Following a delivery of an unknown message to police, Craig was arrested without incident and was booked on charges including: making terrorist threats; disrupting operations of a school; and disorderly conduct. His arrest and bail of $25,000 stands even though authorities didn’t discover a single trace of explosives or any weapons on Craig’s person, in his vehicle, or even at his home.

Downward spiral

Contrary to a public outcry of a suspect making a terrorist threat on an elementary school, the community along with those who know Craig personally are calling the incident sad and tragic; a life that spiraled out of control due to mental health issues. Before plunging into criminal and irrational behavior, Craig had a promising career in basketball; both as a player and then as a coach. He was a star basketball player in the 90’s during his high school years at Horizon High School in Phoenix Arizona, later playing for the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). His path then changed from player to coach after he landed a job as the very young head coach for Utah State University Eastern. After two other coaching positions with the last being at Midland College in Texas, Craig left while suffering with mental health issues including schizophrenia. His life quickly went downhill as he struggled with drugs and extremist thinking. He is now facing the possibility of 15 years or more in prison.

Mental health issues and criminal behavior

Mental Health Issues

Photo by: Alachua County

Having an illness such as schizophrenia does not make a person a violent or dangerous criminal. More often than not, those suffering from untreated mental health issues will do nothing more than struggle privately and isolate themselves, withdrawing from family and friends. Very few sufferers get the medical help they need as they do not speak openly about their struggles. Some choose to end their misery with suicide; other may attempt to numb the pain with substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH), “Individuals with overt, mild, or even subclinical mental disorders may abuse drugs as a form of self-medication.” NIH also stated that “Patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug abuse than the general population.” Many mental health issues make it difficult to make healthy, everyday choices. Substance abuse can further hinder a person’s ability to think clearly and act accordingly. Mix the two together along with decreased support of loved ones and you have a recipe for disaster that can lead to criminal behavior.

SAMHSA

With mental health issues and/or substance abuse, early detection and treatment is key for preventing lives from being turned upside down such as what has happened with Christopher Craig. Fortunately, there are resources available to help those who are struggling with mental illness or drugs; one of those is SAMHSA. According to their website, “The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA’s mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.” They state: “SAMHSA Strategic Initiatives help provide treatment and services for people with mental and substance use disorders, support the families of people with mental and substance use disorders, build strong and supportive communities, prevent costly behavioral health problems, and promote better health for all Americans.” For anyone who is or who knows someone who is struggling mentally or with substance abuse, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. For more information contact the Department of Health in your area. If legal help is needed for criminal charges, contact an experienced defense attorney.