SALT LAKE CITY — An off-duty South Jordan police officer who prosecutors say kidnapped his uncle on Thanksgiving — in addition to exhibiting bizarre, paranoid and reckless behavior — now faces the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
Scott Elliott Russell, 48, of Saratoga Springs, was charged Monday in Juab County’s 4th District Court with aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; obstructing justice, a second-degree felony; aggravated assault, a third-degree felony; reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor; and trespassing and damaging a phone, both class B misdemeanors.
According to charging documents, Russell took his uncle for a ride Thursday in a new Jeep, driving “recklessly and erratically, on University Avenue in Provo. Russell ran red lights, drove in the bus-only lane, and then would jump back into traffic lanes. The uncle feared for his safety because of the way Russell was driving.”
The uncle asked Russell to take him back home, but Russell refused and took his uncle’s phone so he couldn’t call for help, the charges state.
“Russell told the uncle that Russell disabled the phone because Russell believed the uncle was recording him,” according to the charges.
Russell then continued to drive recklessly, which “resulted in Russell rolling the new Jeep off an embankment into the Sevier River,” the charges state. “At that point, the uncle feared for his life and told Russell that if Russell was going to kill the uncle, to just get it done.”
Russell made his uncle take his shoes off, take his wallet out of his pocket and lay face down on the ground, according to the charges.
“At that point, the uncle believed that Russell was going to kill him. Russell then told the uncle to get up and walk. They both walked to an abandoned outbuilding. Russell ordered the uncle to stay at that building and then Russell walked away,” the charges state.
Prosecutors say Russell took the gun he had apart at some point, threw the gun, magazine and ammunition into nearby sagebrush, and then climbed a fence surrounding a cabin, went inside and started a fire in the wood stove, according to the charges.
“The cabin was fenced in with a locked gate. Russell called 911 and reported a rollover. An officer responded, but Russell never told the officer about the uncle or that anyone had been with Russell during the rollover. Russell did not tell the officer about the gun or anything else that had happened,” the charges state.
At some point, the uncle felt it was safe to leave his location and “walked barefoot through desert terrain to I-15. The uncle then walked some miles down I-15 until a passing motorist picked him up,” according to the charges.
The uncle was treated at Utah Valley Hospital for injuries to his feet. It was there that Provo police were contacted about what was happening, a police affidavit states.
When police interviewed Russell, officers noted in the affidavit that “it was hard to follow” his recollection of events. He claimed he had been “set up” and “was actively being watched by an unknown organization,” according to the affidavit. Russell claimed he was being watched, and he disassembled his gun to show those who were watching that he did not pose a threat, according to the affidavit.
Russell remained on administrative leave Monday. He has been with South Jordan police for at least 15 years.