SOUTH SALT LAKE — A man who police say was "firing indiscriminately throughout the city" was shot and killed following a dramatic high-speed chase that ended with a hail of bullets on a busy State Street after crashing into the front of a store.
Harold Vincent Robinson, 37, of West Valley City, was pronounced dead at the scene.
"One of the officers involved in the pursuit said that (Robinson) was leaning out the window and firing the rifle back toward the officers” during the chase, said Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown. "I'm not sure where those rounds went."
Cellphone video recorded by witnesses who were nearby when the fleeing white pickup truck crashed into the front of Princess Alterations and Leatherwork, 3339 S. State, shows more than 20 officers converging on the truck after 15 to 20 seconds of continuous gunfire — dozens upon dozens of shots.
"It's like at nighttime when somebody throws firecrackers outside," one witness said. "All you could hear is bam bam bam bam. You could hear them shooting rapidly."
Dozens of shell casings littered State Street near 3400 South after officers from multiple local, state and federal agencies opened fire on Robinson, who police believe robbed two convenience stores at gunpoint before firing shots — apparently at random — at several locations throughout Salt Lake City and while leading officers on the chase.
Police did not say Monday how many officers fired their weapons at the gunman, but there were unconfirmed reports of at least a dozen.
One Unified police officer suffered a "very minor" injury from a bullet that ricocheted and grazed him, said Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera. That officer was treated at the scene and did not go to the hospital, she said.
Amazingly, Rivera said there were no other reports of major injuries anywhere despite the numerous bullets that were fired. However, she said evidence was being collected at as many as 15 crime scenes, most of which were areas where shots were fired. The sheriff encouraged anyone who was injured or who witnessed Monday's events to contact police.
The shootout happened at a busy section of State Street where there are many restaurants and businesses.
Both Rivera and Brown praised the response of all law enforcement agencies that worked together and "ran into the face of danger” to stop the threat quickly.
"If it hadn’t of been for the cooperation of these brave officers out here … this could have been drastically different,” the chief said.
Officers from Salt Lake police, Unified police, the Utah Highway Patrol, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives were on the scene.
The dramatic series of events began just after 10 a.m. when a Holiday Oil, 2729 W. 4700 South in Taylorsville, was robbed at gunpoint.
Kendall Brigman was at the store buying a soda when a woman at the counter screamed, "We're being robbed!"
Brigman said he saw a tall man back away from the counter with a gun drawn.
"The two girls behind the counter dropped to the floor," he said. "He backed out of the store with the gun drawn, holding it with both hands."
The man got into a white pickup truck, backed up rapidly and headed south on 2700 West, according to Brigman.
Rivera said at 10:37 a.m., a 7-Eleven at 911 E. 3300 South in Millcreek was robbed at gunpoint and shots were fired. No injuries were reported.
At 10:42 a.m., the first reported shots were fired downtown when witnesses said "bursts of rapid fire" erupted near the entrance of the Sheraton Hotel, 150 W. 500 South.
One witness said between eight and 12 shots were fired at a specific window of a hotel room on the first floor. What appeared to be bullet marks could be seen on the brick building and there was shattered glass in the parking lot.
Video from witness. Crash and gunshots happened shortly after. pic.twitter.com/uNTUnLL1SU— KSL.com Cops&Courts (@KSL_CopsCourts) April 8, 2019
Dave Garrison, of St. Louis, Missouri, saw the gunfire as he walked out of the hotel.
"I think my guardian angels were with me. I could have walked out that main entrance. I could have walked right by that gentleman," he said. "I guess it wasn’t my time. It’s sad and surreal. Stuff like this just puts stuff into perspective.
"I just got so damned scared, to be honest with you," Garrison said.
He said he called 911 and gave the police dispatcher as much information as he could, including a description of the truck and its broken driver's side rear window. "The (window) tint was hanging off of it," he said.
As of Monday, Brown said he did not know if the gunman was specifically targeting anyone at the hotel.
Police were still trying late Monday to piece together how many places Robinson fired shots in the downtown Salt Lake area.
Paramedics were called to 500 South and 200 East on reports of a car being shot, but no one in that area reported being injured. Shots were also reported near the Matheson Courthouse at 450 S. State.
According to a recording of police dispatcher scanner traffic from Broadcastify, shots were also reported near 100 S. Main. At one point, the man is described by witnesses as having a silver handgun.
An officer spotted the white pickup going east on 300 South. From there, according to police following him, he made turns on several downtown streets, including 500 East, 800 South and eventually State Street.
"Confirm, he has an AR-15 in his hands as he’s driving,” an officer chasing Robinson is heard telling others on his police radio.
At 1300 S. State an officer reports, "Firing rounds out the window. Two shots fired."
As the situation became more intense, an officer in the pursuit states, "We gotta get up there and shoot this guy. He’s a danger to everybody," according to scanner traffic.
Officers were also setting up spikes at several locations on State Street. As Robinson approached 3300 South, officers prepared to conduct a PIT manuever to hit and stop his vehicle.
"Stay off that driver’s side, his window is down," an officer warns on the police radio. "Be aware of the AR."
One witness said he saw a “swarm” of police cars chasing the truck at 3300 South. At the intersection of 3300 South and State, a police car was hit.
“I ducked into the parking lot right before he hit the cop car in the intersection. I was sitting right here as all the shots rung out,” the witness said, estimating a dozen officers fired their weapons.
“There was a lot of shots fired.”
Brown said he wasn't sure whether there was an exchange of gunfire or whether only officers fired their weapons.
Another witness said he saw the truck and the “whole SLC police department fly by. It was the craziest thing. But no one was moving out of the way because no one knew what to do because there's so many cars behind us.”
"I thought it was a funeral procession or something,” said witness Fernando Tepox.
He said he believes police may have used a spike strip just north of 3300 South to slow down the fleeing truck.
Just as the officers attempted to pin him in because of the heavier traffic near 3300 South, Robinson suddenly went through the northbound lanes of State Street and crashed into the front of Princess Alteration. An officer exclaims on his police radio a short time later, "Suspect down, suspect down!"
Near 3400 South, dozens of bullet casings could be seen covering the southbound lanes. A Salt Lake police patrol vehicle also had part of its bumper torn off.
Monday afternoon, Salt Lake Mayor Jackie Biskupski thanked officers in a message on Twitter.
"Incredibly grateful to our law enforcement agencies today who once again ran into danger to confront what could have been a real tragedy in our city," she wrote.
According to state court records, Robinson has a lengthy history of mostly misdemeanor crimes, many of which were later dismissed after they were filed. In June, a charge of assault was dismissed when the state’s witness failed to show up for court.
In 2003, he was convicted of assault that caused substantial body injury, court records state. Two counts of aggravated kidnapping and robbery were dismissed as part of a plea deal.
In a separate 2003 case, a charge of aggravated kidnapping was dismissed when the state’s witness again failed to show.
Robinson, acting as his own attorney, filed several civil lawsuits against various federal, state and local government agencies and officers, according to records in U.S. District Court.
In May 2002, a federal judge sentenced Robinson to 42 months of probation for possessing a sawed-off shotgun. He appealed the conviction but it was upheld. As a convicted felon, he was not allowed to own a gun.
Fourteen years later, he sued the U.S. attorney general and head of the ATF seeking to possess a gun again. A federal judge dismissed the case, but Robinson filed an appeal this past February.
Also in 2016, Robinson sued port of entry agents for the Utah Department of Transportation’s Motor Carrier Division and a UHP trooper after an altercation in Kanab while delivering watermelons to Salt Lake City. Robinson alleged that the incident forced him to close the doors to his “minority owned” trucking company, Robinson Logistics.
In 2015, Robinson filed a civil rights lawsuit in federal court against several Provo police officers after a confrontation while he was working as a tow truck driver. A judge dismissed the case in 2016.