Domestic Dispute in Springville Ends with Accidental Discharging of a Firearm within City Limits

A domestic dispute between two couples and a relative ended with an accidental discharging of a firearm within city limits.

Domestic disturbance

Photo by: Marco Verch

Police officers were dispatched to a call that someone had discharged a firearm within city limits and discovered a car speeding away from the scene. After pulling over the vehicle, officers discovered a car overloaded with people, two of which were injured. One was suffering from a head injury while another had a gunshot wound to the foot. Returning to the area in which the firearm had been discharged, officers were able to determine the individual’s head injury and the other person’s bullet hole in his foot to have been the result of a domestic dispute that had become violent. The shooting was accidental, yet the man with the weapon will likely face charges for assault for pistol-whipping the individual with a head injury, brandishing a weapon in a threatening manner, and discharging a firearm within city limits.

State laws

Utah is thought to be a more gun friendly state, yet there are strict laws and ordinances in place regarding where guns are allowed and where they can be discharged. Utah law 76-10-508 warns: “A person may not discharge any kind of dangerous weapon or firearm:

(i) From an automobile or other vehicle;
(ii) From, upon, or across any highway;
(iii) At any road signs placed upon any highways of the state;
(iv) At any communications equipment of property of public utilities . . . ;
(v) At railroad equipment or facilities including any sign or signal;
(vi) Within Utah State Park[s] . . .;
(vii) Without written permission to discharge the dangerous weapon from the owner or person in charge of the property within 600 feet of . . . a house . . . or any structure in which a domestic animal is kept or fed”.

Discharging a firearm within city limits

Photo by: Micki Krimmel

Beyond the above listed areas, Utah law does not specify where in a city firearms are lawful to be discharged. Utah Code 53-5a-102 states “All authority to regulate firearms is reserved to the state except where the Legislature specifically delegates responsibility to local authorities or state entities.” Many counties or cities have their own ordinances pertaining to discharging a firearm within city limits. The city of Springville where the domestic dispute resulting in accidental discharging of a firearm was reported states in statute 8-3-102 that “except as permitted by subsection (2) [regarding hunting in rural areas during designated seasons], it shall be unlawful for any person within the limits of the City to discharge any rifle, gun, pistol, air gun, bean shooter, flipper, sling shot, or any other instrument which expels a projectile, except in self-defense, or, in the case of target shooting, upon issuance of a permit by the Police Department. “

Self-defense or Castle Doctrine

There are some occurrences when discharging a firearm within city limits would not result in criminal charges. Some such instances include self-defense cases when a person is found to be justified in using a weapon to protect themselves. Additionally, while state and many city laws prohibit firearm use near a residence, Utah homeowners are allowed to defend their home from dangerous intruders. This freedom to protect a home and its residents is known as Castle Doctrine.

Check with your local area

Besides in instances of self-defense or Castle Doctrine, all Utah residents should be aware that brandishing a weapon during an altercation or discharging a firearm in city limits will likely be frowned upon by law enforcement. Others who may want to engage in innocent target shooting or “air-soft wars” may want to check with their local area ordinances prior to engaging in any such activity that could result in criminal charges.

Utah Veteran with History of Making Threats Arrested For Sending a Biological Toxin to Government

A Utah veteran with a history of making threats against government officials was arrested after he sent letters to the President, the Pentagon, and a Texas Senator containing a substance that tested positive for a biological toxin.

Disgruntled citizen

Photo by: Andy Rennie

39 year old William Clyde Allen III of Logan, Utah who is a former member of the United States Navy was arrested on multiple federal charges after he sent envelopes containing crushed up castor beans, the source of the biological toxin ricin, to government and state officials. Allen also claimed to have sent similar letters to top officials in other countries as well. This wasn’t Allen’s first threat against the government. Within the last four years, Allen has also made death threats against the President and a threat of mass destruction against a military base in Texas. During the most recent incident involving the mailed substance, Allen undeniably went too far and is now facing federal charges of threatening to use a biological toxin.

Biological weapons

While Allen’s previous threats turned out to be nothing more than him taking a troubling approach to expressing frustration, they have now escalated from verbal and written intimidation to threats accompanied by a deliberate action to cause injury or death. 18 U.S. Code § 175 states “Whoever knowingly develops, produces, stockpiles, transfers, acquires, retains, or possesses any biological agent, toxin, or delivery system for use as a weapon, or knowingly assists a foreign state or any organization to do so, or attempts, threatens, or conspires to do the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for life or any term of years or both.”

Lack of mental clarity

While Allen could be facing life in federal prison for his biological attack, some question Allen’s mental awareness and whether or not he fully understands the gravity of the situation. For starters, he didn’t actually obtain the poison ricin. What he had was castor beans that he bought off the internet and sloppily ground up and distributed to random government officials. Accompanying the chunky powder substance, which wasn’t harmful in its current state, were notes that appeared to make a nod toward the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk. Additionally, Allen seemed more upset at missing his weekend plans than he did to spending his life in federal prison. His behavior doesn’t necessarily reflect someone who intended the worst with a biological weapon. Hopefully the penalty for this outlandish scheme includes a mental health evaluation and the necessary psychological help he so obviously needs.

When a Family Turns Their Teenager Over to Police

In light of the recent incidents of extreme violence at the hands of teenagers, many ask why parents and other relatives don’t see the signs prior to these events and turn their own children over to police.

Ignorance or denial

Photo by: Emma Craig

Many parents and guardians are unaware their teens are capable of or even thinking of such heinous acts as those that continue to occur throughout the county. Others parents perhaps either ignore the signs and shrug them off as typical teen behavior or try to deal with more severe matters privately in the home. Other families realize the authorities need to be involved and may have a difficult time making that call.

Making that tough call

One grandma in Everett Washington made that call that any parent or grandparent dreads having to make-calling the police to arrest their teenager. The grandmother of the 18 year old ACES High School student was reading his journal when she came across some distressing entries written by her grandson. These entries went into detail on what seemed to be a well thought out, calculated plan to create mass casualties at a local high school. In an attempt to save other students at the school as well as her own grandson who planned to take his life during the attack, the grandmother called 911 to report what she had found and turn her grandson in to the authorities.

Potential crisis averted

Photo by: Phing Chov

Authorities responded to the 911 call and after obtaining a search warrant, found a semiautomatic rifle and some inert grenades among the teenager’s possessions. Just one day prior to the deadly school shooting across the country in Florida, the 18 year old Washington teenager was apprehended by police while at school and his potential plan of shooting up his high school was foiled. 18 year old Joshua O’Connor was charged with attempted murder for his plan and preparations to carry out a deadly mass shooting and assault for fighting officers when handcuffed.

Legitimate threat or angry teen talk

While most of the Everett, Washington community is breathing a sigh of relief, others wonder if attempted murder charges will stick when no actual action towards violence was taken. O’Connor’s attorney has already noted that he should not be condemned for his personal writings in his private journal. While it could be true that he was merely venting to himself and never truly planned on carrying out the attack, the threat to human life seemed credible to authorities and O’Connor may face several years in prison.