Viral gun-toting Brighton man asked police if he could detain future trespassing skiers

Salt Lake County prosecutors say man pointed gun at snowboarder, countering detective’s findings.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Old Prospect Road, where a man threatened a snowboarder with a shotgun for allegedly entering his property near Brighton Ski Resort, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

The rifle-brandishing Brighton man charged with assaulting and threatening a snowboarder who unknowingly trespassed on his property initially told police officers he wasn’t involved in that incident, according to police reports obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune. He also denied being part of a similar interaction with a skier.

Later, according to the reports, he asked officers if he could detain future interlopers.

On Thursday, Keith Robert Stebbings was charged in 3rd District Court with third-degree assault and threatening. The assault charge is a felony while threatening is classified as a Class B misdemeanor.

Salt Lake County prosecutors appear to have gone against the findings of Unified Police Department (UPD) officers and detectives in their determination that Stebbings pointed his gun at the snowboarder.

“We cannot comment on an ongoing prosecution,” Sim Gill, the Salt Lake County District Attorney, said in a statement to The Tribune, “but suffice to say we took the totality of the evidence that was presented to us and we feel very comfortable in the charging document and the allegations therein.”

In separate incidents on the afternoon of Feb. 24, a rifle-wielding Stebbings confronted a skier and a snowboarder as they skated along what they told The Tribune they believed to be a snow-packed road leading from National Forest Service land to the Town of Brighton.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Old Prospect Road, where a man threatened a snowboarder with a shotgun for allegedly entering his property near Brighton Ski Resort, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

The snowboarder, Loren Richardson, caught his interaction with the man in a video that went viral. In the video, Richardson rounds a bend shortly after dropping onto the plowed pathway near the 7000 block of South Old Prospect Avenue that, according to Unified Police Department reports, a detective determined to be Stebbings’ driveway. Richardson said he was trying to find his way back to his nearby vacation rental after the last of several days of skiing at Brighton Resort.

As Richardson rounds the bend, he encounters Stebbings, dressed in a red flannel shirt, a black skull cap and flowing gray pants. A red camping chair is visible on the pathway behind him. Stebbings pointed a rifle at Richardson, according to charging documents. He then started cursing at the 41-year-old Richardson and appeared to shove him.

“What are you, an Ikon user?” Stebbings said, referring to the multi-resort pass often blamed for overcrowding at ski and snowboard resorts. “I don’t give a [expletive]. This is private property.

“Do it again and there will be holes in you.”

Richardson has always said Stebbings pointed the gun at him. In a second video clip he posted on Instagram days after the encounter, he renders the encounter in slow motion and it appears the rifle is pointed at him as he rounds the corner. However, a detective who reviewed Richardson’s first video determined he “did not see the rifle ever pointed at Richardson during the interaction.”

Richardson also told officers and The Tribune that he did not see any private property signs. No signs are noticeable in either video clip and, according to the police reports, officers also could not find private property signs along Richardson’s path.

Just before he confronted Richardson, Stebbings apparently yelled at a skier who had crossed onto his property. The skier, a Salt Lake City man who has asked not to be named, told the police Stebbings hit his hip with the butt of the gun. The skier’s father reported the encounter to UPD.

When officers found Stebbings at his residence while responding to the call later that afternoon, he was wearing the same red flannel shirt, according to the police reports. At first, Stebbings told them he didn’t know anything about the run-ins. Once informed he was caught on video, Stebbings told officers he and his neighbors had been having trouble with skiers and snowboarders coming onto their property.

One of the officers, according to the police reports, told Stebbings he was “within the right to protect his property. However, yelling at people who ski through it while holding a rifle can be interpreted as a threat and if he ever pointed it at them without him fearing for his life, he could be charged.”

Richardson, who filed his report with the police two days after the run-in, asked for charges to be brought against Stebbings.

“I’d like to see that there’s a stop to this. He needs to be stopped,” Richardson told The Tribune last month. “There’s someone that’s going to be killed if he doesn’t get stopped.”

The police report cites section 76-2-406 of the Utah Criminal Code, which says “only nondeadly force may be used to defend property; deadly force may be used to defend habitation.”

Stebbings’ lawyer told the detective, according to one report, that Stebbings “had no intent to harm anyone. The firearm was not loaded as he was just using it as a prop.”

The lawyer also told the detective that “numerous” complaints have been filed over the years about skiers and snowboarders crossing through private property. However, according to the results of a GRAMA request made by The Tribune, Stebbings had not filed a complaint with UPD in at least the past 10 years.

Stebbings had blocked his driveway with cones and posted private property and no trespassing signs around his property, according to Brighton Mayor Dan Knoop and a police report.

Twice during the Feb. 24 visit, Stebbings asked officers if he could detain trespassers.

“I told [him] no,” an officer wrote in one report. “I advised [him] that would be unlawful detention and he could be charged.”

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024.

The officer advised Stebbings to report them to the police instead. Stebbings took that advice, calling officers out to his property twice the next day.

The first was to report that two snowboarders had come onto his property. He had video of the snowboarders and the responding officer noted that one of the snowboarders had made comments indicating he’d seen the “No trespassing” signs. It is unclear whether any further action was taken.

Later that day, according to the report, Stebbings called again to report he found fresh tracks between two “No trespassing” signs. He reported he did not see who had made the tracks.

According to the report, the responding officer told Stebbings that UPD was “trying to find ways to resolve the issue of trespassers” and advised him to continue to report them.

Since the encounter with the skier and snowboarder, Brighton Resort has donated fencing that Stebbings can put around his property to deter interlopers. The resort maintains it is legally barred from closing off egress points that allow access to adjacent National Forest Land. Nor, a spokesperson said, can it be held accountable for skiers and snowboarders once they leave the resort.

“We can’t be responsible for them leaving our property,” Brighton spokesperson Jared Winkler said. “But then also we can’t be responsible for marking private property that isn’t even ours to mark.”

Richardson, of Clovis, California, had been riding at Brighton before returning to his vacation rental for the last night of a weeklong trip. The skier, however, found his way into Stebbings’ property from Guardsman Pass, where he and a friend had been taking a backcountry skiing clinic through the University of Utah.

Knopp told The Tribune that most residents understand that having skiers and snowboarders cutting through their yards comes with living in a resort town surrounded by public lands.

“He never should have bought a cabin next to a ski resort if that’s an issue,” Knopp said. “That’s like buying a house next to a pig farm and then complaining about the smell.”

Knopp said at a Brighton Town Council meeting last week that he has received “page upon page of emails” regarding the confrontation, which made national headlines.

“It’s been,” he said, “a firestorm.”

Stebbings had not been booked into jail as of Thursday evening. No court date has been set.

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