A newly released video showing an altercation between a Senate Republican and the top Democrat in the Utah House seems heated but not out of control — with bystanders seemingly unaware that a confrontation was happening just feet away from them.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, lodged a criminal complaint against Rep. Brian King after the altercation, which happened in a hallway in the Senate Building at the Utah Capitol last month. Both have argued the footage would prove their version of events was correct.
The 42-second video, released by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to The Salt Lake Tribune on Tuesday through an open records request, shows Thatcher emerge from a hallway in the Senate Building and put his hand on King’s shoulder. King then grabs and pulls Thatcher toward a wall and the Republican pushes back. No audio is available, but they appear to engage in a brief conversation before walking off in the same direction.
King hasn’t denied making physical contact with Thatcher after an argument he said was about the minority leader supporting Thatcher’s opponent in November’s election. But he has said the allegations were “significantly exaggerated.”
Thatcher described the incident to The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month, saying King “grabbed me with both hands and shoved me toward the wall and repeatedly hit my sternum with his finger while shouting that I had no idea what it’s like to be in a superminority and how dare I criticize him for partisanship.”
The video shows King prodding Thatcher’s chest with an extended finger, but the contact doesn’t appear to have much impact on him.
In a four-minute video posted to his personal Facebook account last week, Thatcher said his Democratic colleague needs “anger management” and characterized the incident as “vicious,” “violent” and “insane.”
No charging decisions have been made, and the Utah Highway Patrol had previously denied The Tribune’s request for the video, citing the ongoing nature of the incident. But the District Attorney’s Office released the video Tuesday because both involved parties are elected officials and the altercation occurred in a public area of the Capitol, according to an email from the agency. They said all witnesses to the investigation had already been interviewed and that both King and Thatcher consented to release of the video.
Thatcher, who was just re-elected, says he first took his complaint to the Legislature’s human resources office but that it would not hold King accountable. He then went to law enforcement.
The other factor in that decision, he’s said, was learning that King had been involved in other aggressive behavior in the past. Sen.-elect Dan McCay, R-Riverton, confirmed King had punched him on the arm, and Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said King got in a loud and aggressive argument with Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, on the House floor during debate in 2016 but with no physical contact.
King, who was bidding for re-election to his minority leader post Tuesday night, has disputed characterizations that he is violent and aggressive and said he hopes the video is published “far and wide.”
“I think there was as much physical contact he did to me as vice versa,” he said.