SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) Hundreds of Utah’s most violent fugitives roam the state freely. On their trail, is the US Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (VFAST).
The elite team prefers to work quietly undercover in a dark world many people don’t see.
At a mobile home park in Salt Lake City, federal and local police hunt down their first violent fugitive.
VFAST knows the home holds secret hiding places. The fugitive is known to be violent after trying to stab an officer with a screwdriver.
In just one night, the team targets 22 people, all with active warrants and violent pasts.
A cross section of federal, state and local officers track accused rapists, murderers and convicted felons not cooperating with parole.
“We are dealing with violent people who want to do harm to people they are coming across on the streets. They wouldn’t think twice about harming a local cop or a task force officer or US Marshal,” US Marshal Supervisory Deputy Derryl Spencer said.
Last year, 1,100 wanted fugitives found themselves in VFAST handcuffs. The team in Utah stands among the most successful in the US Marshal service.
Many arrests come easily. Wanted for suspected aggravated assault, a 21-year-old woman served time for robbing and pistol whipping a woman in a Provo hotel. She gave up peacefully in a Target parking lot when approached by the team.
Near 5700 South and 9th East, a wanted 28-year-old appeared to take off in his car when spotted by the team. Spencer sped ahead, put the truck in reverse, and used his bumper as a road block.
VFAST knows the man was a parole fugitive. They didn’t know his 4-year-old daughter would be in the car.
While the team processes the car, officers console the young girl, even buying her dinner.
“You see these poor kids and by no fault of their own, they’re in the mix. They’re in horrible conditions; they’re being treated so poorly; it’s heartbreaking for sure,” VFAST Task Force Officer jared Golding said.
Strike team officers work hard to set up successful takedowns, but it doesn’t always happen.
Early into the night, VFAST learned an extremely violent fugitive under surveillance was on the move.
David Corona spent more than half his life behind bars for murder. He was released in May. The then-18-year-old shot a man in the face for drugs and cash.
After 23 years in prison, investigators accuse him of violating parole by testing positive in a urine analysis for drugs.
“A couple of marshals, a couple of task force officers spent some time on it. Tonight was the night. We decided to make a push, felt like we could catch him,” Spencer said.
Things go bad fast. Before the entire team could get in place, Corona pulled over and got out of his car. When officers approached, Corona runs toward a fenced corner.
With no where to go but back to jail, Corona made a permanent decision, ending his life after 43 years.
“Even though we are trying to be in charge, they are in charge until we get them in custody. We are only reacting to what they do,” Golding said.
Few people kill themselves when pursued by VFAST, but it shows anything can happen. In July, Unified Police K-9 “Dingo” was shot and killed during an operation.
Despite the danger, despite the long nights, task force officers admit their job is a calling.
“It feels good to get these guys,” Spencer said.
“It helps you feel like you’ve really gotten something good done,” Golding said.