Former Utah running back Tavion Thomas has been arrested for investigation of two incidents of domestic violence, including accusations of using a knife to keep a woman from leaving her apartment.

Thomas is being held without bail at the Salt Lake County Jail and faces domestic violence charges in two separate alleged incidents, according to court records obtained by the Deseret News. 

Thomas, 23, allegedly threatened a girlfriend with a knife and took her phone and car keys in an incident earlier this month in Salt Lake County, according to court documents.

The Dayton, Ohio, native faces three third-degree felony charges in that case — two counts of aggravated assault and one count of aggravated kidnapping in the course of committing an unlawful detention.

Thomas is scheduled for a hearing April 21. 

Meanwhile, Thomas is also accused in Bluffdale City Justice Court with a domestic violence charge of electronic communications harassment, a class B misdemeanor. That case stems from an incident between Jan. 8 and Jan. 13, but court documents do not provide additional details. Arraignment is scheduled for Wednesday.

The former running back had a checkered two-year career with the Utes. After rushing for 1,108 yards and 21 touchdowns for Utah in 2021, helping the Utes capture their first Pac-12 championship and earning All-Pac-12 honors, Thomas rushed 142 times for 687 yards and seven TDs in 10 games during the 2022 campaign as he missed significant playing time. 

Thomas announced his departure from Utah’s football program the day before the Utes’ regular-season finale at Colorado. At the same time, he declared for the NFL draft, explaining that he was dealing with an injured toe.

On March 23, Thomas participated in the Utes’ pro day on Utah’s Salt Lake City campus as part of the process of preparing for the draft, which will be held at the end of this month. He was arrested two weeks after his pro day appearance. 

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, who oversaw his team’s spring practice Tuesday, was asked to comment about the Thomas situation. 

“I don’t know a lot of the details,” he said. “My focus is on this football team here now and the players that are in the program. That’s my take on that right now.”

According to charging documents, police responded to a call about a domestic disturbance with a weapon at the residence belonging to Thomas’ girlfriend on April 5. 

The woman told police that Thomas threatened her with a knife during an argument the night before. When the woman said she was going to call police, Thomas allegedly told her, “You’ll be dead before the police find out,” according to the probable cause statement. 

According to court documents, Thomas’ girlfriend told police that she convinced him to go to bed, but that she was too scared to sleep because Thomas had a knife with him throughout the night.

When the woman prepared to go to the airport the next morning, Thomas again took her keys and her phone while holding the knife, charges state. He told the woman he would give the phone back on the condition that she allow him to drive her to the airport and share her location with him on her phone, she told police.

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The woman and her roommate left the residence and called the police, according to court documents. 

Thomas’ attorney Skye Lazaro issued a joint statement with Thomas’ agent Jimmy Gould that read:

“Tavion vehemently denies the allegations contained in the Information filed by the State and maintains his innocence. It is a cardinal principle of our system of Justice that every person accused of a crime is presumed to be innocent unless and until his guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The presumption is not a mere formality, it is a matter of the most important substance,” the statement continued. “It is unfortunate that the State has levied these allegations and held him without bail at a time when he is at the brink of a career in the National Football League. Under the protections of the Constitution afforded to all, we ask that a rush to judgment be withheld and allow Tavion to exercise his due process rights to the fullest.”

In high school, Thomas received scholarship offers from numerous Power Five programs before signing with Cincinnati. He played in 10 games as a freshman for the Bearcats, gaining 499 yards and six touchdowns on 89 carries. As a sophomore in 2019, Thomas played in only four games before transferring to Independence Community College. During the 2020 COVID-19 season, he finished with 50 carries for 347 yards and five touchdowns. 

Thomas arrived on Utah’s campus during the summer of 2021. It took him a while to get in shape but he still rushed for 107 yards and a pair of touchdowns in his Ute debut; he fumbled in each of the first two games of the season. Thomas had just two carries in the next two games. 

But he shored up his ball-security issues and rushed 16 times for 113 yards against USC and had 20 carries for 84 yards and a TD against Arizona State. 

“It’s been unbelievable. It still feels like a dream,” Thomas told the Deseret News at the time. “I’m all the way from Ohio. I love it here. Great vibes. I love everything about this place. It’s really beautiful.”

After the win over ASU, Thomas tweeted, “It’s crazy how just a few months ago I was just sleeping in my car watchin’ college football on my cell phone wishing I could get another shot to play the game that I love.”

Thomas broke the Utes’ single-season record for touchdowns (21) in 2021 and the future seemed bright for him entering the 2022 campaign. 

However, Thomas found himself sidelined several times last fall as he faced issues on and off the field. 

While Thomas played in a win over San Diego State in September, days after his beloved aunt died, he missed the first half of the Arizona State game the following week. 

“Yeah, he was available, physically. But we were planning to play him in the second half in this game,” Whittingham said at the time. “Sometimes, things happen and you have to make certain moves. So that was an internal thing. But Tavion’s healthy.”

Thomas played sparingly in Utah’s memorable victory over USC on Oct. 15. When asked about Thomas’ status, Whittingham said, “We’ll keep that internal, regardless of what it is, unless there’s something very permanent in nature.”

After a bye week, Thomas did not travel to Utah’s game at Washington State but did play against Arizona on Nov. 5. His final game as a Ute was on Nov. 25 at Oregon.

Utah quarterback Cameron Rising hands off to running back Tavion Thomas during game against UCLA at Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Utah Utes quarterback Cameron Rising hands the ball to running back Tavion Thomas during the game against UCLA at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. | Laura Seitz, Deseret News