Man arrested after hidden cameras found in University of Utah rec center restrooms

The 32-year-old man was arrested hours after the first camera was discovered, police said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The Eccles Student Life Center and Kahlert Village on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. A man is in custody after two hidden cameras were found inside all-gender restrooms at the Student Life Center on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, campus police announced.

A man is in custody after two hidden cameras were found Wednesday inside all-gender restrooms at the main University of Utah gym and recreation center, campus police announced Thursday.

The 32-year-old man arrested is not a student, staff or faculty member at the U., police said.

He is suspected of stealing a co-worker’s university identification number to access the Student Life Center, claiming that he was an alumnus to obtain a gym pass, according to a probable cause statement. Police referred to the co-worker as an “acquaintance” of the suspect and said the identification number was stolen without their knowledge.

The first of two hidden cameras was discovered at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, taped under a sink in a third-floor, all-gender restroom, police said. The patron who found it took it to the front desk, and front desk staff called campus police.

(Paighten Harkins|The Salt Lake Tribune) Brian Lohrke, with the University of Utah Department of Public Safety, gives an update during a news conference on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022, after hidden cameras were discovered in two campus bathrooms. Officers have arrested a 32-year-old man they believe placed the cameras.

Responding officers seized the camera and conducted a sweep of the building’s restrooms, where they found a second camera hidden inside an all-gender restroom on the basement floor.

Tape that “may have attached a third camera” also was found under a sink in a second-floor, all-gender restroom, police said.

Investigators were able to identify a suspect in the case after reviewing images on the two seized cameras, police said. He was arrested at about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at his home in Murray. It’s unclear if a potential third camera was discovered following the man’s arrest.

Detectives have so far identified two or three victims captured on camera, Brian Lohrke, with the U.’s Department of Public Safety, said during a Thursday news conference, noting that police are in the “very early stages” of the investigation. He said officers didn’t know as of Thursday how long the cameras had been hidden in the restrooms.

Lohrke declined to say whether anything captured on camera was streamed or disseminated.

The man arrested is being held without bail at Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of identity fraud, a third-degree felony, and voyeurism, a misdemeanor. The Salt Lake Tribune generally does not identify defendants unless they have been charged with a crime.

Lohrke said the man declined to speak to detectives after his arrest, adding that police haven’t determined a motive.

“We are outraged by the grotesqueness of this crime — the violation of our campus’ sense of privacy and safety in what is supposed to be a fun and secure place of recreation,” Jason Hinojosa, the interim campus police chief, said in a statement. “We have a suspect in custody, but we are not celebrating.”

“As we fill in the facts of this case,” his statement continued, “we have victims we need to focus on identifying, offering our support and getting them the resources they need to manage this trauma.”

Hinojosa said investigators are working to protect any images and videos found on the cameras. All evidence obtained from the cameras will be stored “on a locked down, trackable system and accessible only to the investigating detectives and their supervisors,” according to a police statement.

“No images have been downloaded to police laptops or cell phones,” police said.

University staff will be checking restrooms across campus for any additional cameras, police said.

Anyone who sees suspicious activity or finds a camera — or signs of a camera, such as the tape police discovered in one restroom — should not touch the potential evidence and contact campus police at 801-585-2677.

“Many of our patrons will feel victimized and violated by the perpetrator who installed these cameras in what are supposed to be private and safe areas of our recreation center,” John MacDonald, director of the Student Life Center, said in a statement Wednesday to center staff and patrons.

“Please know that university leaders share your outrage and will do everything in our power to hold responsible the person who destroyed our sense of safety and community,” the statement continued.

Anyone impacted by this case may reach out to victim advocates with the Center for Student Wellness and campus police. University mental health services are also available to anyone impacted, officials said.