South Jordan police detonate explosives found at a home after evacuating 600 people

vSouth Jordan Lt. Matt Pennington talks to the media on Friday, July 24 after a police team detonated explosive materials found inside a home.

Roughly 600 residents were evacuated from their homes so police could detonate an “explosive substance” found in a South Jordan home after a SWAT standoff Thursday night.

Officials did not specify what the substance was or how much damage was expected.

“The best people are working on this, and safety is our No. 1 concern,” South Jordan Mayor Dawn Ramsey said at a news conference Friday, adding that local, state and federal agencies are involved.

Fourteen homes were evacuated after police found the explosive material late Thursday at the house located near 3400 West and 10400 South. That evacuation was later expanded to 168 homes when experts determined “they cannot remove (the substance) safely from the home” and needed to detonate it there, according to Rachael Van Cleave, a city spokeswoman. Many of the 34 businesses in the area were also closed, she said.

Residents unable to evacuate were told to shelter in their basements and stay away from windows.

The boundaries of the evacuation zone were from Bangerter Highway to 3200 West and 10200 South to 10400 South.

Van Cleave said they planned to do two detonations Friday night, with “a smaller one in the early evening and a potentially larger one ... sometime after that.” The first detonation went off around 6 p.m.

A second detonation was carried out by 10:11 p.m., and residents were being allowed to return to their homes, according to a tweet from South Jordan Public Safety.

Police had been investigating the 42-year-old man, who lives alone at the home, for about a week and knew he had weapons, according to Lt. Matt Pennington.

“The explosives were a surprise to us,” he said.

The man was being held Friday at the Salt Lake County jail. Police are still working to determine what his intent was with the explosive material and if anyone else was involved, according to Pennington.

Police were called last Saturday to a Culver’s restaurant on South Jordan Parkway after the 42-year-old texted threats to the business owner, according to a probable cause affidavit. The man in custody was upset at the business, which is located just south of his home, asserting “that Culver’s is harassing him and harassment is the reason mass shootings occurred.”

He asked the owner in the text messages how he would feel if the man “entered the business and mowed down customers and staff,” according to the affidavit.

The next day, police received a call that the man “had been seen carrying an AR-style rifle around the outside of his residence,” and “several gunshots” were reported around the time, the affidavit states.

The man also made a comment on Facebook that he had shot out a streetlight. Police checked the area and found that the streetlight directly west of the man’s residence was broken, according to court records. The 42-year-old had two protective orders against him from April 2019 and June 2019, which prohibited him from owning or possessing firearms.

Police served a warrant around 11 p.m. at the man’s home Thursday, but he refused to surrender. As a West Valley City SWAT armored vehicle, which had eight officers inside, approached the front of the home, “it came under heavy fire and was hit with numerous bullets out of the front of the house,” according to the affidavit.

Another SWAT vehicle with five officers inside approached on the west side of the house, and “it also took several bullets from a rifle.” Shots “flew over” the heads and struck near a team of officers providing security on top of a nearby residence and business.

The man later surrendered. He admitted to shooting out the streetlight “as a way of sending a message to leave him alone” and said he shot toward police “until his gun jammed, so he surrendered,” according to the affidavit. He said he had two hunting rifles, a 9 mm handgun and a shotgun, the affidavit states.

The 42-year-old was arrested on 26 possible crimes ranging from aggravated assault targeting law enforcement with bodily injury to a violation of a protective order.

Officials went door to door and sent out alerts on Friday to evacuate people in the area, according to Van Cleave. They were also posting notices on social media for residents who might not have been home at the time.

Ramsey, the mayor, commended police for their response.

“We’re grateful it ended with no harm being done to anyone,” she said.