South Jordan police officer charged with kidnapping uncle on Thanksgiving in ‘paranoid’ attack
(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) South Jordan police officer Scott Russell is seen in this 2018 picture at Bingham High where he previously served as a resource officer.
A South Jordan police officer has been charged with kidnapping his uncle on Thanksgiving in what investigators are calling an “irrational and paranoid” attack.
Scott Elliott Russell, 44, could face life in prison if convicted on the charges. On Monday, the counts against him included three felonies for aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault and obstructing justice, as well as three other misdemeanors.
He is currently being held without bail in the Juab County jail. And the South Jordan Police Department, where he has worked since at least 2017 — including as a high school resource officer — has put him on paid administrative leave.
Officers were first called to Utah Valley Hospital in Provo on Thursday. A patient there said that he had been kidnapped by his nephew and identified Russell.
The uncle told investigators that he had agreed to go for a ride with Russell before dinner at a family member’s house to see his new Jeep, according to court documents, which provided new detail Monday. As soon as they got on the road, the uncle said, Russell was driving “recklessly and erratically,” running red lights and moving in and out of bus lanes.
The uncle said he asked Russell to take him home. But Russell refused to turn back. When the uncle tried to call 911, Russell allegedly grabbed his phone and disabled it.
He then got on Interstate 15 and headed south before pulling off on an exit in Juab County near Sevier River Estates. The uncle told investigators that Russell purposefully rolled the Jeep off an embankment and into the nearby stream there.
When they got out of the car, Russell told his uncle to lay on the ground, remove his shoes and hand over his personal belongings. The uncle said he knew Russell had a gun, so he did what he asked. He feared he was going to be killed.
Russell then demanded the uncle get up and walk with him to find shelter. The two came across an abandoned building. Russell ordered the relative to stay there while he continued on.
The uncle told police that once Russell was far enough away, he started walking back to the freeway to find help. He was barefoot and suffered serious injuries to his feet, according to the court documents.
Walking in the other direction, Russell grabbed his gun out of his ankle holster and removed the ammo, throwing those over a fence. And he broke into a nearby cabin where he started a fire and called 911. He reported that he’d crashed his car and there were no injuries.
A police officer came to help, but left shortly after when Russell told him a friend was picking him up and he’d already arranged a tow. The officer believed “all that had happened was a non-injury accident,” the documents say.
Police later returned to the scene after talking to the uncle and discovered the uncle’s belongings and Russell’s gun strewn about the desert as the uncle described. They 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 his uncle’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.”
A judge has ordered that Russell remain in jail because he has access to other firearms through his job.