Police arrested an alleged white supremacist prison gang member on an assault and kidnapping complaint after finding his car at the same Salt Lake City home where a federal law enforcement unit in March killed another man in a shootout.
Keith James Earnhart, 26, identified as affiliated with the Texas-based Aryan Circle Gang, was booked into the Salt Lake County jail Tuesday night. Earnhart remained behind bars Wednesday on suspicion of third-degree felony aggravated assault and class B misdemeanor marijuana possession.
Cottonwood Heights police Sgt. Mark Askerlund said his office is familiar with Earnhart, whom he said had been out on bail for about two weeks on an unrelated alleged assault on a Cottonwood Heights police officer.
This time, Askerlund said, his officers began looking for Earnhart after his ex-girlfriend called 911 claiming he had abducted her in Cottonwood Heights, taken her cell phone, tried to stab her, assaulted and robbed her during a prolonged drive in his car Tuesday afternoon.
Investigators traced Earnhart’s car to 1149 Folger Street, the same Salt Lake City address where members of the U.S. Marshals’ Joint Criminal Apprehension Team gunned down 37-year-old Ronald Manuel Ontiveros on March 19.
JCAT officers fired on Ontiveros after he allegedly first shot at them while trying to flee the scene of the raid, which was targeting a fugitive acquaintance of his.
Askerlund said Wednesday that once officers confirmed Earnhart’s car was parked at the address, Salt Lake City officers staked out the home while Cottonwood Heights investigators processed a search warrant.
However, before the warrant was obtained a Metro Gang Unit officer spotted Earnhart using a pay phone at a nearby convenience store and took the suspect into custody.
Askerlund said that Earnhart acknowledged having struck his ex-girlfriend in his car, saying she became agitated after a drug transaction with a third party ended with the dealer taking off with the woman’s money without giving her the drugs.
Earnhart denied abducting the woman, using a knife or taking her cell phone, however, Askerlund said. Earnhart told police that the woman willingly went with him as they tried to track down the dealer.
"He’s telling us a different story. So, we’re still investigating the kidnapping part of this and went ahead and booked him on the assault for now," Askerlund said.
Utah Department of Corrections spokesman Steve Gehrke said that Earnhart was last released from state prison in April 2011 after having done time on third-degree felony attempted robbery and attempted burglary counts.
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