South Salt Lake PD Source: Victim determined to be a small woman; police defend AMBER Alert decision

BY JARED TURNER, KUTV
JUNE 26, 2021

SOUTH SALT LAKE, UT (KUTV) -The suspect and victim in an AMBER Alert issued out of South Salt Lake were both with police as they worked to determine exactly what happened.

Surveillance video showed the man carrying the victim kicking and screaming over his shoulder before putting her in a vehicle and driving away Friday around 10:30 p.m.

Officials with the South Salt Lake Police Department said they had to get special permission to issue the AMBER Alert, because they did not have a name or other information about the victim.

The nature of what transpired in the video raised concerns with law enforcement. Based on her size, they estimated her age at around 16 years.

Police spokesperson Danielle Croyle told 2News the suspect and victim were found in West Valley City. They have determined the victim was 35-36 years old. The woman was confirmed to be 5 feet 1 inches tall, and 85 pounds.

At a press briefing Saturday, Croyle said investigators became concerned with the video that showed her taken by force.

Officials have defended their decision to issue an AMBER Alert, as the video clearly showed someone being taken against her will, and witnesses described the woman as a teenager.

A size three shoe was also found at the scene, which is more commonly a juvenile’s size.

Given all that information, police erred on the side of caution and asked the commissioner of public safety for special permission to use the AMBER Alert, which is normally reserved for child abductions.

They were able to locate the red 1990 Nissan Pathfinder soon after several tips came in once the AMBER Alert was sent.

The man and girl were located together. Officials said she was not injured.

Officials did say the victim and suspect knew each other, but did not have information about the nature of their relationship.

The incident caught on surveillance video showed the man take the girl against her will at a gas station in South Salt Lake.

Officials said the man drove a red 1990 Nissan Pathfinder into a parking lot at the Miniature Marketplace station at 310 East 3300 South just before 10:30 p.m. Friday.

The man was seen walking towards the store when a female got out of the SUV and ran to another person at the station.

Police believed her to be a juvenile around 16 years old because of her size – estimated around 4 feet 10 inches to 5 feet tall.

Officials said the video showed the girl apparently hiding by going underneath a truck at a gas pump.

The suspect was then seen running to the female, pulled her from under the truck and carried her away over his shoulder.

Officials said the girl was “kicking and thrashing about, trying to break free.”

The girl cried out, “Help me, please help me” as she was carried away.

The suspect then put the girl back into the Pathfinder and drove away.

Police said the incident did not initially meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert, because they did not have the girl’s identity and could not confirm whether she was a juvenile or adult.

An endangered person alert did go out soon after the incident was reported, but officials said it took some time to get special permission for the AMBER Alert.

Police continued to investigate the incident and expected to have additional information later in the day.

Jared Turner, KUTV contributed to this story.