WEST VALLEY CITY (ABC4 News) – A Provo man is facing multiple charges of assault and disorderly conduct after cell phone video showed him brandishing a gun at a Black Lives Matter Utah protest. But his friends said he did it out of self-defense.
The altercation took place in the middle of a protest held by Black Lives Matter Utah Wednesday evening outside the West Valley City Police Department. Organizers said the protest was for Damien Evans, who died in an officer-involved shooting back in August.
Although he has a history of tension and conflict with Black Lives Matter Utah, James Sullivan, who is the co-founder of Civilized Awakening said he decided to attend the event peacefully because he thought the demonstration was for 13-year-old Linden Cameron. Cameron has autism and was shot by officers with Salt Lake City Police nearly two weeks ago.
“I went out just to get footage of it because I thought it was pretty cool that Black Lives Matter was advocating for somebody that wasn’t Black,” he said. “I’m in a lot of autism advocacy groups. I felt really personally connected to the teen who was shot.”
Sullivan said because of the physical altercations he’s had before with members of Black Lives Matter Utah, he brought bodyguards to the event, one of them being 44-year-old Randall Schroerlucke who could be seen in GoPro and cell phone video wearing a vest and helmet with a taser, pepper spray, and a gun.
Lex Scott, organizer of Black Lives Matter Utah said in the middle of their program for speeches and poems, she heard the sound of a taser being deployed. Immediately, she said she was called over to an altercation between protestors and Schroerlucke, who she said was pepper spraying others.
“Then a group of people came to block him (Schroerlucke) from protestors. He then attacked them. We formed a line to protect ourselves from him and then he unholstered his gun and began aiming it at us,” said Scott.
However, according to Sullivan and Cherokie Limb, a member of Civilized Awakening, that’s not what happened. They said a protester with Black Lives Matter Utah approached them and began assaulting Schroerlucke first when they were walking over to the event.
“He was blocking us and we would not let us walk. He put his hands up to Randall’s abdomen and chest, making contact and preventing him just from walking. Randall said that was assault and he said no,” said Limb.
“Randall told him three times. He told him if you don’t stop, I’m going to have to tase you if you don’t stop,” said Sullivan. “The rest of Black Lives Matter Utah swarmed Randall and another person put him in an arm bar. They almost got him to his knees. People are kicking the back of his legs and then he pulled out his mace after that was all happening.
Nonetheless, Scott said she believes those who have conflict or tension with Black Lives Matter Utah should stay away from them.
“Holding a protest in this environment is dangerous. It’s a powder keg out here. But if they bully us into not protesting, then they definitely won. We can’t just back down,” said Scott. “They were the aggressor and now they’re playing the victim. They’re lying to protect themselves. They’re desperate and they need to just stay away from us. Just leave us alone. Let us practice our constitutional rights peacefully and leave us alone.”
Officers with West Valley City Police arrived to the scene after the altercation. Scott said she was frustrated with their response.
“We told them this man attacked us. They said ‘We need proof.’ We showed them one video. They said ‘We need more proof.’ We showed them multiple videos. Then they needed witness statements, so we have eight people write them. Then he (Schroerlucke) said his wrist hurt so they had to take him to the hospital. We believe he was faking his injuries,” she said.
She went on to say, “He never went to jail. It’s a double standard. If I were to done something like this, I would be in jail right now.”
When asked why Schroerlucke was not booked into the Salt Lake County Jail, Roxeanne Vainuku, spokesperson for the West Valley City Police Department initially said it was because the jail was not accepting suspects in misdemeanor cases. Jail officials said this was not true.
Later, Vainuku later corrected her statement and said the jail requested to reserve booking suspects for the most serious cases as a result of the COVID pandemic. Chief Matt Dumont with the Salt Lake County Jail confirmed this part to ABC4 News.
“Because Mr. Schroerlucke faced misdemeanor charges with further charges to be determined, and because he was not deemed to pose a danger to anyone at that time, he was left at the hospital where he was receiving treatment after being injured and not booked into jail,” Vainuku wrote.
Schroerlucke faces four counts of assault and one count of disorderly conduct. West Valley City Police said further charges are being screened against multiple participants in the altercation that took place.
“Each side of this dispute has a different account of the incident, as well as witnesses and evidence they interpret as supporting their claims. We are currently analyzing claims from one group that protesters may have physically restricted Mr. Schroerlucke from moving in a public space, prompted a specific reaction, as well as protesters’ account that Mr. Schroerlucke was restrained to prevent him from attacking others,” WVCPD said in a Thursday press release.
“You’re innocent until you’re proven guilty. I think when all the footage comes out, there’s going to be a lot more clarity because it was pure self-defense,” said Sullivan.
Investigators said counter protesters with Utah Citizens Alarm were also present at the demonstration. However, the group said Schroerlucke is not part of UCA and none of their members were part of the conflict. Black Lives Matter Utah confirmed this to ABC4 News.
“We were peaceful that night and we will continue to be peaceful,” said Scott.