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SLCPD Releases Internal Affairs Report, Officers Cleared

SALT LAKE CITY — Today, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown released a copy of an internal affairs investigative report, which found no policy violations against two SLCPD officers involved in a case that occurred on November 13, 2020.

The release of the internal affairs investigative report, attached hereto, is consistent with the department’s commitment of being responsibly transparent. The Salt Lake City Police Department conducted a careful balancing test of various protectable interests and the overall public interest in this case.

“The Salt Lake City Police Department takes complaints or allegations of misconduct against personnel very seriously,” Chief Mike Brown said. “Our internal affairs process is committed to investigating complaints and allegations in an unbiased, fair, thorough and complete process.”

“Our two officers found themselves in a very dynamic, dangerous and emotionally-charged situation,” Chief Brown added. “They performed professionally, reasonably and within our department’s policies. I continue to support our officers. Based on the findings in this report, it was reasonable for the officers to believe they could not provide adequate scene security and render first aid simultaneously, and therefore, called for additional resources in the form of a medical response team. We grieve the death of Ryan Outlaw. The actions of Fernanda Tobar the night she stabbed and killed Mr. Outlaw are reminders of the trauma and dangers associated with domestic violence.”

The internal affairs investigation examined whether either officer violated any of the following department policies:

  • Policy 600.3 – Investigation and Prosecution
  • Policy 403.4 – First Responder Considerations
  • Policy 322.4.3 – Discrimination, Oppression, Favoritism
  • Policy 432.3 First Responding Member Responsibilities
  • Policy 310.3 – Domestic Violence Officer Safety

The incident that resulted in the internal affairs investigation started on November 13, 2020, when SLC911 dispatched two Salt Lake City police officers to a report of a domestic dispute in progress. The initial report was categorized by SLC911 as a Priority 2 – Domestic Just Occurred, Verbal Only. There was no information to indicate a physical altercation had occurred.

Upon their arrival, Fernanda Tobar let the two officers into the apartment complex. When the officers contacted Ms. Tobar, she advised them her boyfriend, Ryan Outlaw, was in the elevator and she did not know what happened. One of the officers located Mr. Outlaw inside the elevator lying on the ground with blood on the front of his shirt. That officer called for paramedics and other medical personnel to respond immediately after encountering Mr. Outlaw in the elevator. The second officer spoke with Ms. Tobar.

Medical personnel responded and transported Mr. Outlaw to the University of Utah Hospital in critical condition. Mr. Outlaw later died of his injury while being treated at the hospital.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office later charged Ms. Tobar with homicide. A jury convicted her. Ms. Tobar has been sentenced.

Media coverage of this incident raised concern that the two officers failed to provide life-saving measures to Mr. Outlaw and alluded to Mr. Outlaw’s race as influencing the officers’ action.

The Salt Lake City Police Department is providing key excerpts from the investigative report:

  • [The investigation revealed the two responding officers] acted reasonably and within the above-listed SLCPD policies when responding to a domestic violence call that later became a homicide investigation. … [The two officers] reasonably articulated their safety concerns given the dynamic, chaotic scene they encountered.
  • Both officers responded in a reasonable amount of time (seven minutes from being dispatched) to a verbal domestic assault investigation. Officers were provided with minimal information prior to arrival but acted quickly as soon as updates were provided by dispatch.  [The two officers] were the only two officers initially dispatched. Upon their arrival, they immediately encountered [Mr. Outlaw] who was possibly stabbed and [Ms. Tobar] whose involvement was unknown. These two officers were presented with both a medical emergency and an aggravated assault scene where the suspect was unknown and may or may not have been present at the scene. … Due to the officers’ position inside the apartment lobby and Mr. Outlaw’s position inside the elevator, one of the officers was attempting to keep the elevator doors open while simultaneously providing safety cover for the other officer.
  • [The investigative report found the officers’] priority was to secure the scene and ensure it was safe for [community members], officers, and medical personnel. [The two officers] both stated they were unable to identify a suspect and wanted to ensure there wasn’t an unknown suspect in the area [who] would compromise their safety.
  • [The investigative report found the officers’] had…received basic first aid training [consistent with the Utah Department of Public Safety Peace Officer Standards and Training standards] and did not have the medical equipment needed to treat Mr. Outlaw available on their person. … [Furthermore, the SLCPD Internal Affairs Unit]  conclude[d] it would have been unsafe to retrieve [additional medical equipment from their police vehicles] until the scene was secured.
  • [The officer who first contacted Mr. Outlaw] called for a medical response immediately after encountering him, which conformed with [department policy]. Medical arrived on the scene and immediately began treating Mr. Outlaw five minutes after the initial medical request. While waiting for medical to respond, both [officers] kept constant communication with Mr. Outlaw in an effort to keep him conscious. Further,
    directed Mr. Outlaw to the recovery position in accordance with the training [the officer] has received. [One of the officers] was also attempting to gather information from Mr. Outlaw to determine who stabbed him. Mr. Outlaw did not provide any information about who stabbed him but was speaking with officers.  Mr. Outlaw was conscious, breathing, and alert while speaking with [the two officers on scene]. Both officers assured Mr. Outlaw, multiple times, that medical personnel were on the way to help him.
  • [The two initial dispatch officers] arrived at a volatile scene with little information to assist with the investigation. Fernanda Tobar [, who several hours later was determined to be the suspect,] was uncooperative with officers and provided several inconsistent stories regarding how Mr. Outlaw had been stabbed. While Ms. Tobar recognized Mr. Outlaw had been stabbed, she made several statements that he had been stabbed by an unknown person. The [two] officers [on scene] were unable to identify a suspect involved in the stabbing and did not have the resources available at the time to establish a secure scene.  Two officers were initially dispatched, which is a common response to a verbal domestic dispute incident. It wasn’t until after Mr. Outlaw was located and found to have been stabbed, that officers quickly and appropriately requested additional officers respond to the scene. … At one point, Ms. Tobar fled the apartment building creating a situation where officers were forced to separate from each other to detain her, therefore creating a significant officer safety issue.
  • Rendering first aid to parties on scene is a consideration for officers only after it is safe to do so. …[SLCPD policy states] officers should stabilize the scene whenever practicable while awaiting the arrival of EMS and inform dispatch when they feel the scene is clear for their response. Mr. Outlaw was initially located inside the elevator lying against the wall. [One of the two SLCPD officers] was alone with Mr. Outlaw for most of the call. [That officer] stated he had encountered several issues that prevented him from immediately rendering aid to Mr. Outlaw. [The officer] stated he was concerned the elevator would begin calling to other floors and Mr. Outlaw would be trapped inside if he didn’t prevent the doors from closing. [One of the officers] stated he was also trying to provide cover for [the other officer] while [that officer] was speaking with Ms. Tobar. [The two officers] did not have medical equipment on their person or immediately available to them that would have been appropriate for treating a knife wound. Additionally, leaving the immediate area to retrieve medical equipment at that moment, absent more officers, would have been unsafe and ill-advised.
  • [The two officers] attempted to help Mr. Outlaw by telling him to lie in the recovery position (consistent with their training) and asking him to crawl out of the elevator toward them. Mr. Outlaw did move to the recovery position but was unable to exit the elevator due to his level of injury. While it was unsafe for officers to provide immediate aid to Mr. Outlaw,
    called for a medical response without hesitation. Both [officers on scene] kept asking Mr. Outlaw questions to keep him conscious and breathing until medical personnel arrived.  Only when medical arrived on scene, along with additional officers, was there an adequate number of resources to fully secure the scene and allow officers to investigate the crime.
  • [The Internal Affairs Unit found] no evidence to support the officers’ actions violated [department policy related to discrimination, oppression, or favoritism]. There is no evidence to support that [either officer] had any bias against Mr. Outlaw based on his race, gender, or sexual orientation.

Chief Brown acknowledged the dedication of the SLCPD’s Internal Affairs Unit, which investigated this case.

No further information on this case is being released. Neither the PIO nor the On-Duty Watch Commander are available for interviews.

A copy of the internal affairs investigation can be downloaded by clicking here.