A Salt Lake City police officer has been disciplined for giving a stabbing victim’s gun to a bystander — who absconded with the weapon.
According to a letter from SLCPD Chief Mike Brown dated Oct. 15, officer Rich Clawson was suspended for 10 hours without pay for his actions — as the whereabouts of the gun remain a mystery.
Police received a report of a fight at the Moose Lounge at 180 W. 400 South on Sept. 10, 2017, and Clawson arrived to discover that two of the bar’s security guards had been stabbed. A male bystander was administering first aid to one of the victims and Clawson “asked the male if he and [the victim] were friends and if he would take possession of the handgun” that the security guard was carrying legally. The bystander said he was a friend of the victim, and Clawson gave him the gun — a Ruger LC9 9mm pistol.
Later, at the hospital, the victim told Clawson he did not know the bystander, and Clawson had not asked the man to identify himself.
In his interviews with investigators, Clawson said, “As soon as I found that out, my heart sank,” and “My gosh, I can’t believe I did something that stupid.” He added that he had been unsuccessful in his attempts to identify the bystander and locate the weapon.
The officer said he “gave the individual the firearm, rather than booking it into evidence for safekeeping, because [he] wanted to save [the victim] the hassle of having to retrieve it from evidence when he was released from the hospital.”
Clawson also told investigators that, before he joined the Salt Lake City Police Department, he had “worked for smaller agencies … where property not considered evidentiary in value was not booked into evidence.”
The gun owner later filed a claim with the city and was paid $425 for his loss.
In the disciplinary letter, Brown called Clawson’s actions “a serious error in judgement (sic) and a clear violation of police department policy,” adding that not only had the gun owner “been deprived of his property,” but the gun is in “unknown hands.”
“This situation also has the very real possibility of creating serious liability for the police department, along with tarnishing its’ (sic) reputation in the community,” he wrote.