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Salt Lake officers did not discriminate in domestic violence case, report finds

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A Salt Lake City Police Crime Scene vehicle is pictured in Salt Lake City in this 2021 file photo. Salt Lake police released an internal affairs investigative report Tuesday showing two officers did not violate any policies or fail to render proper medical aid to a stabbing victim when they responded to a domestic-violence homicide in 2020.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Officials from the Salt Lake City Police Department released an internal affairs investigative report Tuesday showing two officers did not violate any policies or fail to render proper medical aid to a stabbing victim when they responded to a domestic-violence homicide in 2020.

The release of the investigation report is "consistent with the department's commitment of being responsibly transparent," a news release states.

The department's Internal Affairs Unit investigation was prompted by a Fox13 news report from August 2022 that "alluded to Mr. Outlaw's race as influencing the officers' action," the report said.

"The Salt Lake City Police Department takes complaints or allegations of misconduct against personnel very seriously," Chief Mike Brown said. "Our internal affairs process is committed to investigating complaints and allegations in an unbiased, fair, thorough and complete process."

The Internal Affairs Unit reviewed body-camera footage, caller logs, official police reports and dispatch recordings as part of their investigation. They also interviewed both officers involved in the incident.

The incident took place on Nov. 13, 2020, when two Salt Lake police officers responded to reports of a domestic-violence verbal dispute at an apartment complex located at 239 E. South Temple.

When the officers arrived, they were let into the apartment complex by Fernanda Tobar, 22, who told the officers her boyfriend was in the elevator and she didn't know what happened, the investigation report said. The report said the officers found Ryan Outlaw, 39, bleeding in the chest area and laying on the ground in the elevator.

The investigation report said one officer immediately called paramedics to come to the scene while the other officer spoke with Tobar about what happened. Tobar did not give the officers any information about who stabbed Outlaw and gave conflicting stories about what occurred, the report said.

The two officers attempted to secure the scene and identify a suspect while waiting for medical personnel to arrive. The report said an officer spoke to Outlaw the whole time to keep him alert and conscious, and the officer directed Outlaw into a "recovery position" as they were trained to do. Outlaw talked with the officer but would not say who stabbed him.

The report said the officers were presented with both a medical emergency and an aggravated assault scene where the suspect was unknown. Because the victim was located inside the elevator, one of the officers was attempting to keep the elevator doors open while simultaneously providing safety cover for the other officer.

The report said because the two officers could not secure the scene by themselves in that situation, they were unable to safely administer first aid to Outlaw or retrieve any medical equipment from their car.

"Only when medical arrived on scene, along with additional officers, was there an adequate number of resources to fully secure the scene and allow officers to investigate the crime," the report states.

Medical personnel arrived just five minutes after they were called, treated Outlaw on the scene then transported him in critical condition to the hospital, the report said. Outlaw died a few hours later at the hospital.

Tobar later admitted she and Outlaw had been drinking and "that she was very angry and 'full of rage' this evening due to some jealousy issues between her and Ryan," according to charging documents. Tobar began to hit Outlaw with her hands, picked up a sharp item and continued to 'hit' him with it, charging documents said.

Tobar was arrested and charged in 3rd District Court with murder, a first-degree felony on Nov. 23, 2020. Court records show she was found guilty of manslaughter in December 2021, sentenced to six months in jail and placed on five years of probation.

The investigation report said the officers' priority was to secure the scene and ensure it was safe for the community, officers and medical personnel. The officers had received basic first aid training but did not have the medical equipment needed to treat Outlaw available and the scene was not safe enough for them to retrieve it from their cars, the report said.

The report found that the officers acted professionally and reasonably to a "dynamic, chaotic scene" while not having the resources to secure the scene. Salt Lake police policy states officers should stabilize the scene when possible while awaiting emergency medical services, the news release said.

"Our two officers found themselves in a very dynamic, dangerous and emotionally-charged situation," the police chief said. "They performed professionally, reasonably and within our department's policies. I continue to support our officers. Based on the findings in this report, it was reasonable for the officers to believe they could not provide adequate scene security and render first aid simultaneously, and therefore, called for additional resources in the form of a medical response team. We grieve the death of Ryan Outlaw. The actions of Fernanda Tobar the night she stabbed and killed Mr. Outlaw are reminders of the trauma and dangers associated with domestic violence."

The internal affairs investigation examined whether either officer violated department policies of investigation and prosecution; first responder considerations; discrimination, oppression, favoritism; first responding member responsibilities; and domestic violence officer safety. The investigation found no evidence to support either officers' actions violated any of these policies.

"There is no evidence to support that (either officer) had any bias against Mr. Outlaw based on his race, gender, or sexual orientation," the report states.