Ogden family distraught after police mistake husband for wanted man
Eric Hill woke at 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 20 to his scared daughter telling him she had heard knocking near her closet.
Hill thought the 10-year-old was hearing things, but then came the banging on the front door of his Ogden home.
He went from his basement bedroom to the front door and asked who was there.
Hill said he finally armed himself with a baseball bat and asked again who was there.
"Ogden Police," a voice called out from outside the home, located in the 1000 block of Harrop Street.
"At that point, I didn't believe it," Hill said. "It took them so long to respond to me."
But Hill opened his front door and was met with six men who he said were dressed in black, with no police identifiers that he saw. Three had assault rifles, Hill said; two were carrying tactical shotguns.
The men pointed their guns at Hill and told him to drop the bat and come outside.
"They just automatically placed me in handcuffs," Hill said. "I [told] them my name, and they [kept] telling me my name is Derek."
Hill said the officers told them that a felony arrest warrant was being served because he had gone AWOL from the military. But Hill, 28, had never been in the military.
The man police were looking for was a 23-year-old whom officers found a couple of hours later, according to arrest records. Second District Court records show the man has been charged with desertion.
While Hill was upstairs trying to reason with the officers that he was who he said he was, Melanie Hill, his wife, said she was in their basement bedroom with their two children, ages 4 and 10, trying to make out what the voices were saying upstairs.
She said she grabbed her phone to dial 911, thinking the voices were that of a distraught neighbor. But when she went to the stairwell, she was met with a man holding an assault rifle.
"I thought we were getting robbed," she said. "I had no idea who the person on the stairs was."
Melanie Hill said she was told to go downstairs and grab her husband's wallet so he could prove his identification. She said her children followed her up the stairs and were terrified to see armed strangers in their home.
"After the [Newtown, Conn.] shooting that just happened, my [older] kid was already scared to go to school," Eric Hill said. "They are just traumatized by it."
Eventually, Eric Hill proved his identity to the officers, and they took him out of handcuffs, the couple said. But the couple said the officers never further identified themselves or explained why they had come to their house.
Melanie Hill said one of the officers made a comment about her husband coming to the door with a bat, saying that had it been a gun, the officers would have "blown you away."
"It was a split decision to grab that bat," she said. "They could have killed him in his house for no reason in front of me and my kids. There should be other tactics to handle this kind of situation."
Ogden police Lt. Will Cragun said officers initially thought Eric Hill matched the description of the man for whom they were looking. He said once the officers verified Eric Hill's identity, they released him and apologized for the error.
"These things are going to happen on occasion," he said. "It's unfortunate for Mr. Hill. His response [in holding a bat], I totally get. He has the right to protect his family. I would hope [the officers] are professional."
Cragun said instances of mistaken identity are not common, but do happen. He said that the officers who went to the home were patrol officers working the night shift and would have been dressed in a patrol uniform, which includes a navy blue shirt with police patches, and tan pants.
Eric Hill said he received a phone call from police Chief Mike Ashment several days ago, explaining that the warrant was served at his house because it was the last known address of the man facing the arrest warrant.
The Hill family bought the house six months ago, Eric Hill said, but added that his neighbor told him the man police were looking for was the previous homeowner's nephew, who had never lived at the home.
No formal complaint about the incident has been filed to the police department, Cragun said.
"If people think officers have done something in violation of our policy or violation of the law, they have the right to come and make a formal complaint," he said. "We will do an investigation to make sure there wasn't any violations or any wrongdoing."