Utah's homicide rate on pace with 2020's record year

A spike in violent crime across the nation has caught the attention of President Joe Biden's office.

Biden recently announced a five-part plan to curb the rise in violence in the U.S., particularly gun violence.

In Utah, the number of homicides during the first six months of the year is on pace to match a record the state set last year in 2020. There were 103 homicides in Utah during 2020 — a single-year record for Utah — according to statistics kept by KSL.com.

During the first six months of 2021, there were 40 homicides plus five fatal officer-involved shootings, according to KSL.com statistics. That's compared to 45 homicides and four fatal police shootings during the same time period last year.

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That number could go up if several suspicious deaths currently under investigation are determined to be the result of homicide.

As in 2020, the number of homicides during May and June spiked again this year. There were 22 homicides during those months each year.

Statistics show that 75% of all homicide victims during the first six months of this year were killed as a result of gunfire.

Several police departments, when asked about the numbers, said they can't point to any single trend or common denominator as to why the homicides are happening. Others note, however, that several of their cases involve young suspects and victims between the ages of 15 and 22.

Some examples:

"For the second year we are seeing more young people willing to commit acts of violence. As a community we need to be looking into prevention efforts that will divert our young people from a life that involves violent crime," Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera said.

"As law enforcement we are committed to identifying and apprehending suspects in these cases. Violence prevention requires a partnership with the community to divert these young people before they commit these acts, and developing innovative ways to hold them accountable while providing resources to reduce recidivism," she said.

Salt Lake police have investigated nine homicides during the first six months of 2021 compared to four during the same time in 2020. In Murray, police have investigated three homicides during the first half of the year. That's compared to one murder in all of 2020.

But each police department says their cases do not appear to be part of any trend, and the factors that lead to each killing are varied.

Six of those Salt Lake victims were killed as a result of gunfire. In five of the cases, either the suspect or victim was 21 years old or younger, according to KSL.com statistics.

One of the year's highest profile killings occurred Feb. 6 when Conzuelo "Nicole" Solorio-Romero, 25, was kidnapped from her Kearns home, taken to a home in West Valley City where she was shot and killed and then her body was dumped somewhere else. Several people have been arrested and charged in connection with her death.

Then on March 30, Gwendolyn Doner, 19, was killed in a head-on collision caused by a man who police say was purposefully driving the wrong way on the interchange from I-215 to southbound I-15. Justin Wayne Robertson, 35, of Cottonwood Heights is charged with murder.

Other homicides during the first six months of 2021 began with an argument over a watch and cigarettes, a dispute over payment and an argument over a car.

Six homicides were the result of domestic violence involving either a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend or an ex, according to KSL.com statistics, including a woman who police say fatally shot her husband at a mattress business, a man who shot and killed his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of an Ogden grocery store, and a woman killed by a former Public Enemy No. 1. A fatal officer-involved shooting in Murray also started with a domestic violence investigation.

Also in 2021, a Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy was shot in the face and a second deputy was grazed by a bullet during a routine patrol of the grounds of the sheriff's office near 3500 South and 1100 West. The gunman in that incident was shot and killed by police.

Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting:

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Utah Domestic Violence Coalition: Utah's confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic violence hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465)

YWCA Women in Jeopardy program: 801-537-8600

Utah's statewide child abuse and neglect hotline: 1-855-323-DCFS (3237)

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

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