SOUTH SALT LAKE, Utah (ABC4 News) – Was he shooting to kill? One man, who stared down the barrel of the gunman’s high-powered rifle, tells ABC4.com the man with the gun missed him, on purpose.
The question, is one of many, that still hang over the harrowing crime spree that stunned the Salt Lake Valley on Monday morning, and ended in the death of the gunman, at the hands of more than a dozen police officers.
Law enforcement sources tell ABC4.com we may be weeks away from knowing what detectives find at more than fifteen crimes scenes, and police commanders say they’re certain the order to ‘shoot to kill’ was the right thing to do that day.
10:42 a.m. on Monday – the first calls come into the 911 center. Witnesses report a man with a handgun and a rifle, firing shots. Most witnesses say the shooter was aiming at a building – the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City.
10:51 a.m. – another wave of 911 calls come in. This time, witnesses are saying a man with a rifle fired shots into the air.
“A white pickup came into the intersection,” one witness reported. “He threw something out of his window, proceeded to get out of the car or truck and started shooting up in the air with a semi-automatic.”
10:53 a.m. – yet another report of a shooting. This time, two men, sitting in a car at a traffic light are the witnesses. The man in the passenger seat, Russell Allen, was only a few feet away from the gunman, sitting in his pickup truck.
“Our eyes were locked,” Allen tells ABC4.com. “From the moment he pulled up next to us at the intersection where we exchanged a few words.”
According to Allen’s account, those words were profanities. And yet, he’s convinced the shooter aimed away from him, when he fired as many as eight shots, from what police would later discover was a high-powered rifle, into the hood of the car in which Allen was riding.
“I know he intentionally meant to shoot the engine,” Allen tells ABC4.com.
When asked whether he was afraid for his life, Allen responded, “It definitely makes me grateful for the small things.”
Police officers and their commanders had a much different opinion of whether the suspect, identified as 37 year-old Harold Vincent Robinson, was shooting to kill.
At 10:55 a.m., officers responding to the first shooting reports, spotted the white pickup truck and the suspect, behind the wheel. They, and their commanders, quickly realized they had an active shooter situation on their hands and that it was moving at a high rate of speed.
“As the suspect was driving southbound on State Street, he was leaning out of his window, firing multiple rounds at our officers,” Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown told reporters at the day’s first briefing. “We’re not sure where those rounds went.”
Radio transmissions between pursuing officers and dispatchers reveal how intense the chase became, and how quickly it escalated.
“216 confirm,” one officer heard over the scanner, “He has an AR-15 in his hands, as he’s driving.”
The decision was made, and the call went out, in one of the next radio transmissions.
“We’ve got to get up there and shoot this guy! He’s a danger to everybody!”
Within minutes, the shooter was dead.