Kaysville • When four officers responded Thursday to a report of a suicidal man pouring gasoline on himself, they found the man standing in a store, lighter in hand.
They approached him, trying to get the lighter. But the man ignited the lighter, and with it himself and the four Kaysville officers.
The initial report came into dispatch about 2 p.m. Thursday, stating the man was in the Chevron/McDonald’s near 200 North and 300 West.
By 2:35 p.m., the dispatcher had received reports that an officer was “down” at the scene.
Kaysville police Chief Sol Oberg later said four officers — three men and one woman — responded and were burned after the man caught fire.
About 3 p.m., officers from multiple agencies were on scene, as were firefighters. The store and conjoined gas station were cordoned off. Police were inspecting a long, black carpet runner pulled out of the store, sitting alongside what appeared to be a small pile of clothes.
Passers-by stopped and gawked, speculating about what might have happened.
Randy Palmer was heading into the McDonald’s when he saw police removing burn victims from the store. He assumed it was a mass shooting.
Palmer said he saw two bald people being taken out of the store, one bound for an ambulance and the other a helicopter.
“I don’t know if hair was singed off, or they were just balding,” he said.
Palmer said at least one burn victim appeared to be coherent, lifting his head as he got in the ambulance.
“One officer was burned fairly significantly on his arms and legs,” Oberg said. “One officer on his arms and part of his face, another officer on portions of her face.”
Oberg said there is also concern that the mouths and lungs of officers were burned.
By about 8 p.m., the city of Kaysville announced on Twitter that three officers had been released from the hospital. The officer who directly dealt with the suicidal man will remain hospitalized for about 10 days but is expected to recover.
The tweet did not give a status for the suicidal man, and Kaysville police did not return a request for an update on his condition. KUTV reported he remains in critical condition.
When fire is involved, Oberg said, dealing with a suspect becomes much more difficult for officers.
“Obviously, some of their options are gone, and I think some of that is why it resulted in some of the injuries we saw today,” Oberg said.
Some customers and store employees were believed to be inside at the time of the incident, but no one else was injured. The gas station sustained some damage from the fire.
The chief called it a “heartbreaking” episode, but said he was proud of the officers for putting their lives on the line.
“There’s a lot of pride in seeing what they’ve done — that there is no hesitation in going in and trying to save this individual, as well as the other occupants of the store, in what could have literally been an explosive situation,” Oberg said.