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Ogden police making changes after mistaken identity incident

Published January 23, 2013 9:09 am

Police • After a high-profile goof, it won't be as easy to serve arrest warrants later than 10 p.m.
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After an internal investigation, the Ogden Police Department says it's making changes to its warrant policies after an Ogden resident was mistaken for a wanted man.

But Eric Hill — who had guns drawn on him and was placed in handcuffs in the early morning after being mistaken for a man who had gone AWOL from the military — said the changes don't ease his mind about the interactions he had on Dec. 20.

"It doesn't ease my mind at all," Hill said Tuesday. "Not one bit. What the changes they said they are going to make is good, I guess, but for my case, I just wish they would have thought of that before they came to my house."

Changes to arrest warrant policies include stricter guidelines for warrants served after 10 p.m., such as background and address-verification checks before officers attempt to serve a warrant, according to a news release from the city.

A memo sent from Ogden Police Chief Mike Ashment to Mayor Mike Caldwell also details further changes: Ashment wrote that the department will now require felony arrest warrants to be reviewed by a supervisor if they are executed after 10 p.m.

The police department maintains that the officers did not violate Utah state law, which says felony warrants can be served day or night, or Ogden city police policy. Despite the lack of any violation of policy, Ashment still recommended a change in arrest warrant services.

In an internal investigation summary, Ashment disputed several claims that Hill made in interviews with The Salt Lake Tribune and other media outlets.

Hill said the officers were dressed in black. Ashment said the officers were in full patrol uniform.

Hill said the officers had two shotguns and three rifles, while Ashment said only one of the officers had a shotgun.

While both Hill and his wife, Melanie, said one officer made a comment about "blowing you away" if Hill had answered the door with a gun instead of a baseball bat, Ashment said every officer on the scene claimed no comment of that nature was made.

Hill never filed an official complaint with the police department, Ashment noted in his report.

"I didn't feel confident," Hill said. "So I never went that route. I didn't think it would do anything for me at all."

Ashment wrote in the report that police officers went to Hill's home because the U.S. Army had given the department that address as an AWOL officer's last residence. They were able to conduct further research and determine that man was at a home in Harrisville, where he was arrested later that night.

None of the officers, including the sergeant, had previous experience with a desertion warrant, Ashment wrote, adding that the officers discussed the warrant and "believed there was a high likelihood that [the man] may possess weapons and have special training in their use." He wrote that the officers decided to use the three patrol rifles and one shotgun, which was loaded with bean bag rounds.


Twitter: @jm_miller






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