Police: Two officers assaulted in the past week in the St. George area

Southern Utah News

ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News)- Two officers in the St. George area have been assaulted in the past week after responding to public intoxication and domestic violence calls, officials said adding that these situations aren’t very different from what they unfortunately experience on a daily basis.

Police said these encounters, especially with individuals using drugs, are often dangerous and volatile and can sometimes have a lasting emotional impact on those involved.

Officers responded to the McDonald’s on Bluff Street in St. George Monday afternoon after a man inside was intoxicated and yelling.

John Horton (Washington County Bookings)

Police said that John Horton, 54, of St. George, became aggressive towards officers, threatening to shoot them with a shotgun and facing them with clenched fists, ready to fight.

Authorities said they needed to push Horton against the wall to take him into custody, and he resisted arrest, kicking the patrol car and banging his head against the window.

St. George Police Capt. Mike Giles told ABC4 News their primary goal is to build a rapport with those they encounter, but sometimes de-escalation tactics fail and officers are left with no choice but to become physical.

“We deal with people in different emotional states and different mental capacities throughout the variety of all the calls that we respond to,” Giles said. “If officers are being assaulted, it’s very different than if someone is making a threat from across the room.”

Giles said officers are trained to determine what level of force is needed to detain someone, but confirmed it’s a fine line, based on their thought process and the information they receive from dispatch and on-scene witnesses.

“Every situation is different, and what presents initially from a caller as onset of facts, officers get on scene and what they observe may change that perception altogether,” Giles said. “We try to get as much information as possible. If there’s a threat of a firearm, has one been seen or are we aware of a history of possession of firearms? What may be a credible and substantiated threat?”

Left: Michael Milton
Right: Shelley Cooper
(Washington County Bookings)

A St. George Police officer was also assaulted Friday evening after responding to a domestic violence incident occurring in public at Steamroller Copies on St. George Boulevard. After interviewing the couple, Shelley Cooper and Michael Milton, officers arrested them both on domestic violence charges. As an officer tried to remove Cooper once they arrived at the hospital for a medical clearance before being transported to jail, police say Cooper kicked that officer in the chest.

“The victim often has strong feelings for the person who’s abusing them,” Giles said. “While they want the help to stabilize the situation, our involvement sometimes is looked at negatively based on what’s required of us by law.”

Authorities said they deal with unpredictable domestic violence cases daily and train their officers to be ready for whatever may happen.

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