Press Release: Officer Involved Critical Incident in Washington City

WASHINGTON COUNTY
CRITICAL INCIDENT TASK FORCE
BARRY GOLDING/INVESTIGATIONS BUREAU CHIEF
WASHINGTON COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE
33 NORTH 100 WEST, SUITE 200
ST. GEORGE, UTAH 84770
435-634-5723


Date: March 17, 2021
Initial Investigation Information
For Immediate Release
Officer Involved Critical Incident in Washington City

On March 16, 2021, around 2:39 PM, law enforcement officers received a report of a male suspect driving erratically and pointing a gun at multiple people in the area of 20 North Red Trail Lane in Washington City. Law enforcement officers located the suspect near Washington Parkway and Telegraph Street. When officers attempted to stop the suspect’s vehicle, the suspect fled at a high rate of speed. Officers did not initially engage in a high-speed pursuit. The suspect was located a short time later near 20 North Red Trail Lane where he stopped his vehicle and fled on foot.

The suspect ran into an apartment at 20 North Red Trail Lane and he was subsequently identified as Augustus James Cole (age 33). Mr. Cole barricaded himself inside his apartment and the Washington County Metro SWAT team responded to the scene. The residents living in the apartments surrounding the incident were evacuated. Over the next several hours multiple officers reported seeing Mr. Cole through the windows of the apartment holding various firearms. Mr. Cole also put a sign on his window telling the police he has a 45 caliber firearm and 12 gauge shotgun.

Mr. Cole spoke with law enforcement negotiators various times while barricaded in his apartment. He communicated that he would shoot anyone who came to the front door. He also repeatedly refused to come into police custody.

Around 9:20 PM, officers reported that Mr. Cole pointed a shotgun in their direction and a SWAT officer fired one round from his rifle, striking Mr. Cole in the abdomen. Mr. Cole continued to barricade himself inside the apartment and communicate with law enforcement negotiators. During the incident, the SWAT team used tear gas and an explosive to open the apartment’s front door. Mr. Cole eventually surrendered around 11:52 PM and was then transported to the hospital and treated for the gunshot wound. He was then booked into the Washington County Jail for multiple charges including aggravated assault, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, and drug possession.

Any time a law enforcement officer uses deadly force in the area, the Washington County Critical Incident Taskforce conducts a thorough investigation into whether the use of force was justified. The taskforce is led by Barry Golding, the chief investigator for the Washington County Attorney’s office. It is composed of experience law enforcement officers from various agencies in the county. Questions may be directed to Chief Golding at the contact information above. This is an active investigation and additional information will be released as it develops.

Kelsey family’s video of Britton’s Search & Rescue

On November 27th 2020, The Washington County Sheriff’s Office Search & Rescue was deployed to assist in locating 15yo Britton Kelsey who had become separated from his family during a hike on the Red Mountain trail.  Search & Rescue volunteers scoured the red mountain with the assistance of family, friends, caring citizens and other law enforcement agencies.  This video, which captures a brief glimpse into the emotion and dedication involved in nearly every incident, was shared publicly by the Kelsey family.  We share this as a reminder of the constant sacrifices made by our Search & Rescue volunteers who continually make themselves available to ensuring the safety of the people of Washington County.

https://vimeo.com/487893784

Supplemental Press Release ZNP Missing Person Case

On October 20th 2020 Sergeant Darrell Cashin spoke with a local media outlet regarding our agency’s involvement in Zion National Park’s missing person investigation of hiker, Holly Courtier.  During the interview, Sergeant Cashin commented on circumstances of Courtier’s recovery which were not consistent with our training and experience.  These inconsistencies raised some questions as to the authenticity of the events as reported to law enforcement.  In response to numerous media inquiries, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office stands behind the observations and statements made by Sergeant Cashin.  However. we feel it is important to clarify that we stand by our initial release that we were only involved in a consultation role.  We fully support the findings of the National Park Service investigation and believe their investigation into the incident was thorough and well executed.  

Sergeant Cashin’s comments, along with national media coverage, led to many additional questions and theories regarding the incident.  Numerous tips have been received indicating the incident was possibly conceived and carried out as part of a plan to fraudulently generate money to a GoFundMe account for Courtier’s recovery. 

Despite the thorough investigation conducted by the National Park Service, Utah State Code does not grant them the authority to investigate violations of Utah law.  Based on our local authority and jurisdiction, the Sheriff’s Office had an obligation to the public to investigate the criminal allegations which were being presented.

At this point in the investigation, there has been no evidence to support the theory that the incident was committed intentionally as an effort to achieve financial gain.  However, we ask that any credible information submitted is based on tangible leads, and/or evidence which can be shared with investigators.  Tips regarding this case should be submitted to tips@washeriff.net 

Zion National Park- Missing Person Press Release

The Sheriff’s Office would like to apologize for our delayed response regarding our involvement in the Courtier missing persons investigation conducted by Zion National Park.  Over a 24 hour period we attempted to post the information to our social media page on Facebook, but were denied access citing a “violation of community standards.”  After a day of attempted appeals, it was decided to post the release here for availability to both the press and public.

RE: Zion National Park Missing Person

We have received many requests for comment regarding our involvement in the Courtier Missing Persons investigation. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office was contacted by Zion National Park officials in consultation regarding the Courtier Missing Persons investigation and subsequent Search and Rescue Operation. In an effort to ensure all investigative efforts had been covered and possibly provide additional insight, a case review was requested by Zion National Park Rangers.

On October 15th and 16th a Sheriff’s Office investigator and Search and Rescue representative reviewed the investigation. It was our finding that the investigative methods were consistent with Sheriff’s Office investigative practices and no further action was recommended. Based on these findings we remained available for assistance should the National Park Service make the request. This was the extent of our involvement regarding the case and all further media inquiries should be directed Zion National Park.

 

Washington County Drug Task Force Tip Seeks Public Information

The Mission Statement of the Washington County Drug Task Force is to protect the citizens of Washington County from individuals involved in gangs, drugs, and other clandestine crimes. Law enforcement as a whole have experienced an alarming increase in overdose service calls. The task force is committed to the relentless pursuit and prosecution of individuals who choose to distribute dangerous and deadly drugs in our community. The task force would like to solicit your help in this valiant pursuit. If you have any information you would like to share, please submit it HERE.

Tips can be submitted anonymously or if you would like the opportunity to provide additional assistance, you can leave your contact information on the form and a detective will contact you.

Another goal of the task force is education. Please leave your contact information with a request for a presentation from the task force and a detective will contact you.

 

 

Inmate Face Mask Ordering

At Purgatory Correctional Facility we are issuing FDA approved disposable masks. In addition, family members will be authorized to purchase reusable cloth masks if you so desire. The only approved mask that can be purchased is at the following link (BLACK COLOR ONLY):

BUY MASK HERE (BLACK COLOR ONLY)

Please note that only the masks will be delivered. If other items are shipped with the mask, the package will be refused.

PURGATORY COVID-19 UPDATES

  • As of Wednesday, January 6th, there are currently 0 active cases of Covid-19 within Purgatory Correctional Facility.

Please be aware that the following restrictions are in place at the Purgatory Correctional Facility:

  • Commitments are now being accepted on a space available basis. Please see below for additional information.
  • On site personal visitation will not be allowed until at least January 1st 2021, please check here for updates.

Beginning Wednesday, January 6th commitments will be allowed at Purgatory Correctional Facility, while space is available. Those wishing to serve a commitment must call the jail at 435-656-6600 at least 48 hours before their commitment to arrange a COVID-19 test. In order to prevent the health risks associated with repeated entry and exit, all commitments must be served in a single block. Weekend and Split commitments will not be allowed at this time.

Covid-19 Attorney Visit Procedures

UPDATE: Effective July 1st 2020, all professional on site visitation will be reinstated.

In order to protect inmates, staff, and the public at large restrictions on all forms of visitation have been implemented at Purgatory Correctional Facility. For guidance on attorney visitation please see the attached  document regarding changes to Attorney Visitation in light of Covid-19 restrictions.

Attorney Visits (COVID-19)

OHV’s in our community; Road vs Dirt. Are you legal?

As our state begins to loosen the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington County has seen a dramatic increase in outdoor recreation activities.  In addition to the increased number of hikers and visitors to our state and local parks, we have seen an increase in the use of recreational vehicles throughout our communities.  During recent interactions we have found there was an opportunity to educate the community regarding laws governing the operation of both “Street Legal” and traditional Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs).  Based where and what equipment you are operating, the rules and laws likely vary.  It is your responsibility as the operator to know and follow the local regulations.  In this article we will attempt to cover some of the most common questions.

Read more

Introducing WCSO’s Online Incident Reports

During recent times our community has been forced to adapt to changes resulting from the Covid-19 Pandemic. The Sheriff’s Office has also adapted to better serve the members of our community, while doing our best to follow CDC guidelines. Unfortunately Covid-19 has not completely deterred criminal activity. In order to accommodate police reports which do not require the physical presence of a deputy, we have introduced our online reporting system. For more information, visit our web page to learn what types of incidents can be reported online from the safety of your home.https://news.washeriff.net/public-services/wcso-online-reporting/