A counterprotester has been charged with assault for allegedly pepper-spraying a citizen reporter in the face at a Black Lives Matter protest in Cottonwood Heights in August.
Landon Daniel Buttars, 21, of South Weber, was charged in 3rd District Court with assault, a class-A misdemeanor.
The alleged assault happened as members of Black Lives Matter protested how police treated demonstrators at an earlier event to honor Zane James, a 19-year-old suspected of armed robbery who was killed by police in 2018. The BLM protesters who gathered outside Cottonwood Heights City Hall on Aug. 7 were faced by a group of counterprotesters — including members and supporters of the Utah Citizens' Alarm group, many of whom were armed and wearing tactical gear.
At the end of the protest, Buttars sprayed a citizen reporter with Salt City News in the face with what witnesses said was pepper spray, a probable cause statement alleged. “Several protesters pointed to” Buttars as the person who used the pepper spray, it said.
The citizen reporter told police he “intervened when a BLM protester engaged with the UCA group” and was “maced directly in the face by a UCA member.”
Police obtained a video of the incident in which “Buttars, a member of UCA, is seen spraying” the man “directly in the face with a liquid from a small cannister.” The video also showed members of both BLM and UCA “providing water to” the man “to help decontaminate him.”
The Salt Lake Tribune contacted Buttars and he declined to comment, saying his attorney would reach out.
UCA leader Casey Robertson told The Tribune on Friday that Buttars hadn’t been with UCA since August and had joined another group.
“Landon has absolutely nothing to do with UCA. We denounce his actions of ‘kicking the bear’ and we stand by our policy of zero engagement and standing peacefully to protect our communities,” Robertson said.
UCA formed this summer in response to a shooting at a police violence protest in Provo.
Court documents allege that Jesse Keller Taggart, 33, of Salt Lake City, shot a motorist who drove through the protest. Bradley Glenn Walters, 29, of Ogden, allegedly pointed a gun at the vehicle, police have said.
Taggart has been charged in 4th District Court with attempted aggravated murder, a first-degree felony; aggravated assault and discharge of a firearm causing injury, both second-degree felonies; and rioting, a third-degree felony. Walters, 29, of Ogden, was charged with aggravated assault and rioting, third-degree felonies.
UCA members have attended numerous protests along the Wasatch Front, standing on the outskirts of Black Lives Matter and other similar demonstrations, openly carrying firearms and wearing tactical gear, with the stated mission of maintaining peace.