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Magna neighborhood shaken by public suicide

Published July 19, 2012 3:11 pm

Tragedy • Police say the man told his wife earlier in the day that he would kill himself.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A West Valley City man died Thursday, three days after driving through several backyards in Magna and then shooting himself in front of several residents.

Neil Bawden, 57, was removed from life support Thursday at Pioneer Valley Medical Center.

Residents of the neighborhood were shocked to learn of the man's death and remained confused about why he drove his black Ford Ranger through three backyards, hitting a trampoline and an awning, destroying a landscaped shallow pond and three fences. Bawden stopped when he crashed into a home's air conditioning unit.

Unified Police Department Lt. Justin Hoyal said Bawden had made suicidal threats to his wife earlier in the day and then left in his truck.

At about 1:15 p.m. Monday, Bawden was driving west on 3500 South near 7660 West when he left the road.

Gary Anderson and his family were having lunch when he heard a loud noise and saw from a back window that vinyl fences were being ripped up.

"I heard the thunder and saw the big dust ball of vinyl [fencing]," said Anderson, who lives near where Bawden left the road.

Anderson told his wife to call 911 as he hopped a fence to help the man.

Another neighbor also tried to help Bawden, who was still wearing his seat belt and seemed coherent.

Bawden — whose left eye was badly cut in the crash — told Anderson and the other neighbor to stop helping him.

As Anderson stepped away, he heard the female neighbor shout, "He has got a gun!"

"I turned around and I just kinda froze," said Anderson, who then saw Bawden cock the revolver and shoot himself in the head.

"The whole thing looked like slow motion when that happened," Anderson said, adding that it is a difficult image to erase from his mind. "Everything seemed pretty surreal."

On Thursday, neighbors in the area were helping each other fix their fences and replacing the air conditioning unit.

cimaron@sltrib.com Twitter: @CimCity