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SWAT standoff ends with officer bitten, pit bull dead and ex-con arrested

Published September 26, 2012 2:08 pm

West Valley City • It all began with a large knife, and an argument with roommates.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated.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.

West Valley City • A seven-hour standoff with a SWAT team in West Valley City ended with a pit bull shot to death after biting a police officer and a violent ex-con in custody after being shot with a bean bag round.

West Valley police Lt. Dale Brophy said the incident began as a 911 call about a dispute between three roommates that escalated when one of them allegedly pulled a large kitchen knife and threatened the other two.

When police arrived at 11:45 a.m. Tuesday, they assisted the two roommates — who had barricaded themselves in the basement — out of a window. "Once we had everyone out but the suspect, we made contact by phone. He was not cooperative, he said he was not coming out," Brophy said Wednesday.

Learning that firearms may be in the house, SWAT was called to the scene. Contact was again made by telephone but proved unsuccessful, and a decision was made to attempt to take the suspect, identified as Robert Dewitt Browne, 36, into custody as he came out the front door about 1:30 p.m. while talking to a negotiator.

Browne was shot in the chest by the bean bag — also known as a "flexible baton round," a shot-filled, fabric-encased load meant as a non-lethal, stunning option to bullets. However, Browne still managed to close the door on the officers.

About 3:30 p.m., Brophy said, SWAT forced entry and one officer was attacked by the suspect's pit bull and bitten on the leg. Another SWAT team member fired at least once, killing the dog, and officers retreated.

It was not until shortly after 7 p.m. Tuesday that the shirt-less Brown, the red welt from the bean bag impact visible, finally gave in to a negotiator's demands and surrendered.

Nearby Hillside Elementary School was put under lock down as a security precaution as police surrounded the suspect's home near 4300 South and 6000 West just after noon Tuesday. Students were allowed to leave at the end of the school day, picked up by parents or designated emergency contacts.

Brophy said the bitten SWAT officer was treated at the scene and released.

As for the pit bull, Brophy said neighbors told them the animal had a history of being vicious and aggressive toward strangers.

Police said Browne told them he had been in prison for past violent offenses. Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Stephen Gehrke confirmed that Browne had been released from Utah State Prison in 2007 after serving time for third-degree aggravated assault, second-degree drug distribution, third-degree receiving or transferring a stolen vehicle, and class A misdemeanor vehicle burglary.

Browne was being held without bail Wednesday on suspicion of first-degree felony aggravated kidnapping, second-degree felony aggravated assault, third-degree felony criminal mischief and class B misdemeanor threats against life or property.

remims@sltrib.com