This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A harrowing, violent night for a southcentral Salt Lake City neighborhood ended with police fatally shooting a wanted parolee after he allegedly broke into two homes, threatening a toddler's safety in one and stabbing a woman in another.
Public safety dispatchers say police approached the suspect about 12:09 a.m. Wednesday at 850 S. Roberta St. (250 East), a duplex where a 28-year-old female resident had been stabbed in the abdomen. Police found the assailant inside the unit, a confrontation ensued and an officer shot and killed the man.
No officer injuries were reported.
Police identified the decedent as Robert Richard Berger, a 48-year-old Salt Lake City man with a long criminal history ranging from aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping convictions to burglary, vehicle theft, drug and numerous fleeing police violations.
The deadly denouement came just minutes after Berger allegedly had attempted to break into a 2-year-old girl's bedroom through the window of an apartment at 838 S. Roberta St.; he was chased off by the child's parents, who called 911.
William Piper, the parents' upstairs neighbor, said the girl's father tried to use a hammer to fight the suspect through the kitchen window.
"It happened so quick. I don't know where [the intruder] came from," Piper said. "I guess by the time [my neighbor] got him out, I guess he ran [to the duplex] and just started stabbing the girl."
The woman's screaming had awakened Piper. As police were responding to the parents' call, dispatchers received the call about the woman being assaulted at the nearby duplex.
"It was kind of scary. … It just kept getting louder her yelling, as she's getting stabbed," Piper said.
Piper came outside to see his downstairs neighbor coming outside, which is when they saw officers responding to the scene, and "the lady was still screaming," Piper said.
An officer shot Berger at the women's duplex, Piper added.
The woman who was stabbed was taken to the hospital in serious condition, but her injuries were not considered life-threatening, SLCPD Detective Richard Chipping said.
Sandy Patterson, the neighbor of the woman who was stabbed, told The Tribune that the victim and her younger sister had moved into the duplex about a week ago.
Patterson said she fell asleep last night while watching television.
She said she awoke to the sound of "pounding on her door and screaming for help."
Patterson said the younger sister told her that someone was stabbing her older sister.
Patterson said she tried to call 911 but was unable to get through.
Minutes later, she said, she heard a single gunshot.
"It happened quickly, as far as I know," Patterson said.
Police were at the scene overnight and investigated as dawn broke.
The officer who fired the fatal shot was on administrative leave, pending an independent review of the shooting by the Unified Police Department.
Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams said Berger had served nearly 14 years in prison prior to being paroled in June 2014, but he had returned to state custody several times since for parole violations.
Berger recently had been released to the Fortitude Treatment Center "to stabilize as he transitioned to the community," Adams said in a statement.
"[Berger] was last seen at the center on Sunday," Adams stated, noting that he checked out for a medical appointment on that day and was due back that evening.
"He failed to return Sunday night, and our agents got a warrant for his arrest on Monday," Adams said.
The Fortitude Treatment Center, which opened in Salt Lake City in 2012, allows offenders to stay in the community instead of returning to prison.
While there, offenders are under tight restrictions and undergo intensive treatment programs to address "underlying issues causing [them] to struggle," according to the center's website. Parolees can leave to look for work, go to work, attend school or see family.
Berger's most serious past criminal offense occurred on July 5, 2000.
A Salt Lake County jail inmate at the time, Berger deliberately injured his arm to get a doctor's visit. While getting X-rays in a downtown office, Berger slipped a handcuff and ran out, jumping into an unlocked running car in which a 49-year-old woman was dozing in the backseat.
In an interview two days later with The Tribune, the woman told of riding with Berger as he confided to her about his hatred of prison and his expectation of being killed by police.
She said she had opportunities to escape, such as when Berger entered a convenience store to buy cigarettes, and at the park when he visited the men's restroom. But she said she was too frightened to act.
Berger later pleaded guilty to first-degree felony aggravated robbery and was sentenced to prison for up to life.
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