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South Jordan police officer arrested for allegedly kidnapping a relative on Thanksgiving

(Mugshot courtesy of the Juab County Sheriff's Office) Pictured is Scott Elliott Russell, who was arrested on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020.

A South Jordan police officer was arrested Friday after allegedly kidnapping and assaulting a relative on Thanksgiving.

Scott Elliott Russell is currently being held in jail without bail on suspicion of several felony counts. And South Jordan police Lt. Matt Pennington said the city has put Russell, who has worked there since at least 2017 — including as a school resource officer — on paid administrative leave while charges are pending.

“We took immediate action,” Pennington confirmed Saturday.

Officers were first called to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo on Thursday. A patient there said that they had been kidnapped by their nephew and identified Russell.

The probable cause statement for Russell’s arrest does not say whether the relative is a man or woman. It also does not list their age; but it doesn’t appear that the individual is a minor.

The relative told investigators that they had agreed to go for a ride with Russell before dinner at a family member’s house. After driving south on Interstate 15 for awhile, though, Russell refused to turn back and take the relative home, according to the arrest documents.

Russell pulled off the freeway in Juab County near Sevier River Estates where he purposefully rolled his car off an embankment and into the nearby stream.

When they got out of the car, Russell told the relative to lay on the ground, remove their shoes and hand him their personal belongings, the relative told investigators. The relative said they knew Russell had a gun, so they did what he asked. Russell took their phone, according to the arrest documents, and pulled out the battery. He tossed the relative’s wallet, as well.

From there, “the suspect’s behavior became more irrational and paranoid,” the probable cause statement says.

Russell grabbed his gun out of his ankle holster and removed the ammo, throwing those over a fence, too. And then he ordered the relative to start walking with him to find shelter.

The two shortly came across an abandoned building. Russell ordered the relative to stay there while he continued on. The relative told police that once Russell was far enough away they started walking back to the freeway to find help. A car stopped, and the relative later was picked up by family and taken to the hospital.

Police later interviewed Russell on Friday. The probable cause statement says, “It was hard to follow their recollection of events.”

Russell “claimed he had been set up, and believed he was actively being watched by an unknown organization.” He said he had taken the relative’s phone so they couldn’t be tracked. And he discarded his gun, he added, because he wanted the individuals watching him to see that “he didn’t pose a threat.”

Investigators say they have been unable to figure out what Russell was referring to. They traced the area, though, referred to by the relative and located the items that Russell threw out.

He has not been charged but because he has access to other firearms through his job, a judge has ordered that Russell continue to be held in jail.

Russell was interviewed by The Salt Lake Tribune in February 2018 about his job then as a school resource officer at Bingham High through South Jordan police. He and others had talked about the importance of training to prevent a school shooting shortly after a gunman and former student killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Detective Scott Russell of the South Jordan Police Department is pictured on duty at Bingham High School in South Jordan in this Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 portrait. Russell was arrested on Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 for allegedly kidnapping a relative.

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