WEST JORDAN — Police said Tuesday they are not looking for any additional suspects in a rash of tree vandalism after arresting a man who allegedly claimed "the trees hurt him first."
Wesley James Pettis, 24, was arrested for investigation of criminal mischief after police say he admitted to damaging at least four trees over the past few weeks.
But officers believe his arrest will clear up all of the more than 80 trees that have been broken or damaged in West Jordan and South Jordan since late July.
Pettis was arrested after West Jordan police received several calls of a suspicious person. In each case, the suspect description was the same. According to police, Pettis was seen walking in the area and talking to himself.
When officers found him, there were "several conversations going on with himself at the same time," according to police. Pettis said the trees hurt him first and he broke branches because they were too low and would hit him, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.
Essentially, he claimed he was retaliating against the trees, police said. He would also hurt his hands while pulling down branches or snapping the young trees that were 2 to 3 inches in diameter at the base, the report states.
Police say Pettis was homeless and living out of his truck, where they found evidence of some of the broken tree branches.
When the jail released his mug shot Monday, they had to give out a mug shot taken a couple of weeks ago because he was too uncooperative during his most recent booking and was taken straight to the housing unit, said Salt Lake County Sheriff's Sgt. Cammie Skogg.
West Jordan police hope to interview him later this week. Investigators believe substance abuse and possible mental health issues are factors, though no paraphernalia was found in his vehicle at the time of his arrest, according to police.
He was charged with misdemeanor drug paraphernalia possession in June, according to court records, and intoxication earlier this month.
During his Aug. 13 arrest, police say Pettis was "running around the parking lot" of the Crossroads Motel, 5683 S. Redwood Road, "speaking incoherently and was confrontational," according to a report. When the arresting officer approached the pickup truck Pettis was in, his eyes were bloodshot and speech slurred, the report states.
"Pettis was also very difficult to understand and was rambling while speaking to himself," the report notes.
When the officer had Pettis exit his vehicle, he could not stand without assistance, according to the report.