‘A man just fired ... at the City-County Building’: 911 calls, videos show Salt Lake City’s distress before a police chase ended in a shootout

(Screenshot of Salt Lake City police footage) A white truck is chased down State Street in Salt Lake City by police cars on April 8, 2019.

Police released body camera videos from an April 8 gunfight in the center of Salt Lake City on Friday, along with surveillance video from six crime scenes that were part of a 4-mile chase that ended with more gunfire and the death of the suspect.

The images and sounds capture the dangers experienced by the public and officers that day, as pickup driver Harold V. Robinson Jr., fired a rifle throughout a winding route and 65 people called 911. His path, police said, took him past the city’s major sites — Pioneer Park, Vivint Smart Home Arena, Temple Square, City Creek Center, The Leonardo, the downtown city library, City Hall and the Matheson Courthouse.

Robinson cannot be seen on the videos, but multiple officers can be seen firing their guns. At the end of the chase, gunfire can be heard for a 25-second stretch — sounding like a barrage out of a Hollywood movie.

Salt Lake City police Capt. Jeff Kendrick said police received the first 911 call about a man firing a gun from a white pickup truck at 10:42 a.m.; Robinson, 37, of West Valley City was killed at 11:01 a.m.

Police played several 911 calls at a Friday news conference and showed surveillance video and photos of the crime scenes, beginning with shots fired at the Sheraton Hotel at 150 W. 500 South and ending when Robinson crashed his truck into an alterations shop near 3300 S. State Street. Police have yet to specify how Robinson died.

One video showed police vehicles pursuing Robinson down State Street — at one point, 18 patrol cars are visible — and body camera footage showed the viewpoints from two police officers who were among those who fired at the suspect after he crashed his truck.

Only three Salt Lake City officers had their body cameras turned on during the chase and shooting, Kendrick said. Discovering why other officers were not using their cameras is part of the investigations into officers’ actions on April 8.

(Courtesy Salt Lake County jail) Harold V. Robinson, Jr.

The videos were released the same day Robinson was to be buried, according to the Utah chapter of Black Lives Matter, which has helped the Robinson family share comments about his actions and death. In a new statement Friday, the chapter said it was disheartened that police provided “only poor angles of the shooting.”

“It is clear from the footage that this is a case of excessive force,” the statement from Black Lives Matter said. "The police not only rushed to kill, instead of attempting to preserve life. They also put several lives in danger within the alteration shop and did irreparable damage to the shop and the livelihood of its owners.

“We would again like to stress that Harold had mental health issues and he deserved to have de-escalation tactics used. The police should have used rubber bullet guns, de-escalation, mental health counselors and employed their CIT [Crisis Intervention Team] training. Instead they rushed to the scene by the dozens shooting and destroying lives and businesses with their trigger happy response.”

Christina Judd, a spokeswoman for the Salt Lake City Police Department, said she didn’t know how many times Robinson was shot. She said that’s part of the investigation.

“Our officers are trained to address the threat and stop it,” Judd said at Friday’s news conference, “and that’s what our officers did.”

The six scenes described by Kendrick began at the Sheraton.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

‘I saw the gun’ • The first 911 call was made by a woman in an Uber ride, who sounds rattled as she says, “Hi, there was somebody just shooting at the Sheraton Inn in downtown off of 500 South … I saw the gun; I saw them shooting.”

She described an older, white Ford or Chevrolet truck.

Robinson drove north on 400 West and turned onto South Temple, then drove east to Main Street. Near 111 S. Main Street, he drove onto the TRAX line, nearly struck a cyclist and went into the intersection against the light, Kendrick noted.

‘Get down’ • From an office at 136 S. Main Street, a man called 911 and said he had heard gunfire from what sounded like a rifle. “There’s a gentleman screaming, ‘Get down, there’s a guy with a gun.’ … Everybody’s just scrambled into buildings,” the caller said.

‘Several rounds’ • Robinson cut over to State Street and headed south. Employees at the Marriott City Center saw him stop at 270 S. State, in front of the hotel, and fire “several rounds,” Kendrick said. A casing was found there.

‘A man just fired’ • Robinson continued south on State Street, stopped at the intersection at 500 South and threw a glass bottle out of the truck, Kendrick said. He then got out himself, “shot numerous rounds” into the intersection.

“A man just fired an automatic weapon at the City-County Building,” a 911 caller said. “He stopped in the middle of the intersection and got out. … I had to dodge my car out of the way because he was firing over my car.”

Robinson got back in his truck and headed to 700 South, where he turned east, Kendrick said, and he then headed north on 200 East, back up to 500 South.

(Photo by Nate Carlisle | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake City police Capt. Jeff Kendrick addresses reporters April 19, 2019, at the city’s public safety building and describes the April 8 chase and shooting of Harold V. Robinson, Jr.

‘Some car shot another car’ • At the intersection of 500 South and 200 East, Robinson fired at another car and its two occupants.

“Words were exchanged between occupants of both vehicles, and a second round of gunfire was shot at the victim's vehicle,” Kendrick said.

“We just saw some car shot another car,” said a 911 caller. “A truck just pulled up beside another car.”

Surveillance video shows the white pickup pull up next to the car, and puffs of smoke when the shots were fired.

Robinson headed east and south to 500 East, then turned south and west again, turning south down State Street, a police map showed.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Law enforcement at the scene of a shootout near 3300 South State Street in South Salt Lake on Monday April 8, 2019.

‘Hands up!’ • Video from traffic cameras show officers pursuing Robinson from approximately 1300 South to 3300 South on State Street, with the truck running red lights and narrowly missing other cars.

Footage from one officer’s body camera shows the pursuit beginning at approximately 800 South State Street. “Firing rounds out the window,” an officer says as the audio picks up two gunshots.

Officers can be heard yelling “Hands up!” in a video during the pursuit; one officer can be heard speaking into his radio: "Back off, guys, he’s firing.”

A Salt Lake City officer waited for Robinson’s truck to enter the intersection at 3300 S. State St. As Robinson drove south, a video shows, the officer rammed his patrol car into the back side of the truck, causing the truck to spin out into an alterations shop on State Street.

The body camera footage ends after the truck crashes and multiple officers can be seen and heard firing.

It’s not clear what Robinson’s motives were. His family has said he suffered from paranoia and delusions.

The episode began, Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera has said, when he robbed a convenience store in Taylorsville and then one in Millcreek before he was spotted at the Sheraton.

Ten Salt Lake City police officers remain on leave as a result of the chase and shooting, though it’s not clear how many of those fired their guns.

Only Salt Lake City police have released camera footage. Three Utah Highway Patrol troopers who responded that day also were placed on paid leave after the shooting, as were two officers from the Unified Police Department.

All three departments are conducting reviews to determine if officers followed policies. West Valley City police are conducting an investigation into the officers’ use of force, and those results will be provided to the Salt Lake County District Attorney.