Police weigh changes after Utah shooting killed mom, son
FILE – This June 6, 2017, file photo, crime scene investigators begin their work as Sandy police investigate a fatal shooting in a Salt Lake City suburb in Sandy, Utah. Police documents obtained… (Scott G Winterton/The Deseret News via AP, File)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Police in two Salt Lake City suburbs said they are reviewing the way they handle 911 calls involving stalking and threats after records revealed authorities received two reports about a man who wanted to kill his ex-girlfriend. Neither complaint stopped him from carrying out the threat by opening fire on a car full of children this month, killing the woman and her son and injuring two other children.
Victim Memorez Rackley’s stalking report about Jeremy Patterson three days before he shot her was not treated as a domestic violence complaint because the onetime couple was not married or living together — a distinction made by police that advocates said Friday is risky because many victims are in dating relationships or have just broken up.
“Why would you exclude half of the population of your domestic violence victims?” said Mark Wynn, a retired police lieutenant who served with Nashville’s domestic violence division and is now a consultant.
Rackley told police on June 3 her ex-boyfriend Jeremy Patterson had sent her threatening text messages that included pictures of her children, followed her and confronted her about the breakup.
Officers from the suburb of Sandy told Patterson to stop contacting her, advised her to stay with a friend and told her how to apply for a protective order. But because it was not considered a domestic violence case, they did not ask a series of questions designed to determine whether the case could turn deadly, said Sandy police Sgt. Jason Nielsen.
Doing so would likely have flagged the case as high-risk and put her in touch with a social worker to help her navigate the court system, said Utah Domestic Violence Coalition executive director Jenn Oxborrow. Though Rackley had told police she would seek a protective order, court records from the Salt Lake City area show no signs she did before she was killed.
Advocates for domestic violence victims say it’s important for police to get social workers involved quickly in cases where victims are often afraid involving police could provoke their abusers — a fear mentioned Rackley stated when she reported the stalking, according to a recording of the 911 call.
Sandy police “missed some huge risk markers here,” Oxborrow said.
Police have said that the case was handled properly under their current procedures but are now reviewing policies to determine whether they should be changed on cases involving dating relationship cases, Nielsen said.
“We’re in discussion on how to make things better,” Neilsen said.
Rackley’s report also was not connected to a second 911 call that came into the neighboring suburb of Draper just hours before the shooting on June 6.
In that case, an anonymous tipster said a man named Jeremy Patterson was texting her “all sorts of crazy, scary things,” saying he wanted to kill his ex-girlfriend and himself, according to a recording of the 911 call released by police in response to a public records request. The call came in just hours before Patterson opened fire.
The caller told a police dispatcher that Patterson lived in Draper and details about the call were passed to Draper police. But the information about Patterson’s hometown was not relayed to the officer and the tipster did not answer her phone when he called her back, so he could not locate the suspect in his 10-minute investigation, said Draper Deputy Chief John Eining.
If the officer had known about the previous stalking report made by Rackley, he might have acted differently, Eining said. But the two neighboring suburbs have different record-keeping systems, so Rackley’s 911 call did not appear in a computer system when the officer searched Patterson’s name.
“There was no way of knowing this was going to be carried out in the next three hours,” he said. “If we’d known, we would have stopped everything to try and find out who this person was.”
The two agencies are expected to merge their complaint systems in a new computer system serving the area sometime next year but Eining said he expects the case to prompt discussion and reconsideration of how such complaints are handled before then.
Patterson, 32, confronted Rackley, 39, while she was walking her two sons home from their elementary school on June 6, police have said. An unidentified woman driving by with her daughter and two other children in her sports utility vehicle saw the argument and stopped to help.
Rackley and her two sons got inside and drove away but Patterson followed them in his pickup truck and used it to ram the SUV several blocks away.
He then got out and opened fire. Rackley and her 6-year-old son Jase were killed. Her 11-year-old son Myles and the daughter of the driver were wounded. Patterson then fatally shot himself.