UPDATE: Pleasant Grove standoff suspect back in custody after brief release
Just over one week after Robert Sterling Clark was arrested after a six-hour standoff with law enforcement in Pleasant Grove, in which he allegedly fired his rifle at police officers, he has been released from jail.
Clark’s release sparked some pointed discussion around bail reform and highlights disagreement between the Utah County Sheriff’s Office and Utah County Attorney David Leavitt over how it was allowed to happen.
Following the disagreements, charges were filed by the Utah County Attorney’s Office on Wednesday night and the Utah County Attorney’s Office PIO Sherrie Hall Everett confirmed that Clark was arrested in Orem at approximately 10 p.m. Wednesday.
According to the Utah County Sheriff’s Office inmate lookup, Clark was released Tuesday after being booked for four charges of attempted aggravated murder, one charge of attempted murder, one charge of aggravated assault, and unlawfully discharging a firearm.
The incident began at approximately 2:40 p.m. on March 16, when Clark was reportedly holding a gun and shooting it into the air. He then allegedly shot the gun at his neighbor, and another caller reported having their vehicle shot at by Clark.
When officers were dispatched to the scene, Clark was seen on his second-floor balcony firing the weapon several more times, according to the probable cause statement.
As officers began to set up a perimeter around the house, Clark also reportedly fired several more shots at officers in his backyard.
The Utah County Joint SWAT team eventually arrived, using negotiators to try and convince Clark to exit his home. He reportedly told negotiators that he was prepared with a lot of ammunition and if officers were to enter the home, he would kill them.
The SWAT team later used gas in the residence to try and get Clark to exit the house, but it did not work. After an armored vehicle was used to breach the front door and window, Clark was arrested and complied with law enforcement.
Clark reportedly had not been taking his medication for his paranoid schizophrenia for the past several months and stated he does not trust the police because they “eat zombie flesh.”
The probable cause statement stated that Clark is a danger to himself and everyone around him, including people driving on the street, neighbors and police.
A request for no bail was made for Clark because of these violent actions and his unregulated medication.
Leavitt said his office had a certain number of days to file the charges against Clark, but that time can be extended in serious cases that require more work.
Leavitt said that a motion was filed asking that the custody status be continued until Thursday so charges could be filed.
“That is typically a routine motion that gets filed and gets granted,” Leavitt said Wednesday. “For reasons that we don’t know, the court, despite having the motion, didn’t call the case or even address the motion and instead ordered the defendant’s release. Once we learned that was the case we contacted the court, which was actually a different judge and that judge signed the order, but by that point, the defendant had been released.”
On Wednesday morning, the Utah County Sheriff’s Office put out a statement linking Clark’s release to a bail reform bill that has been repealed by the Utah State Legislature, and was signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox on Wednesday.
The bill involved people waiting on trials to be released if they could not afford bail and were no threat to fleeing prosecution. Leavitt has been outspoken in his support of the bill, while the Utah Sheriffs’ Association has spoken out in favor of the repeal.
Leavitt said that Clark’s release has nothing to do with bail reform, adding that it was due to a lack of decision by the judge that would have happened under any circumstances.
Clark was held by the first judge on no bail, then the second judge ordered his release. Leavitt said he believes the court made a mistake.
“I have no idea why the court did not call the case,” Leavitt said. “It had been filed, our prosecutors were ready to address it, the court just didn’t call the case.”
He said that Clark was not let out of jail due to the bail reform statute and if a press release is claiming that, it is factually an error.
UCSO PIO Sgt. Spencer Cannon told the Herald that Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith is under the impression that Clark was released due to procedures tied to the bail reform bill. Cannon added that while the county attorney may not believe or agree that it is tied to bail reform, the question remains, why is Clark out of jail?
The reason Cannon cited was the lack of charges being filed.
“If it didn’t have anything to do with the bail reform that let him out, then it has everything to do with the county attorney’s office not doing their job,” Cannon said.
He also brought up public safety, saying that law enforcement did its job by arresting the man and the County Attorney’s Office needs to keep him in jail to protect the public.
In a press release from the department, Smith said it is not acceptable for people who are a danger to themselves and to the community to be released from jail. He continued, saying that supporters of bail reform should be ashamed of the damage they are doing to the criminal justice system.
State Rep. Andrew Stoddard, D-Sandy, tweeted about the issue saying that bail reform is not the problem but that holding someone without charges is.
“This type of misinformation is so harmful to progress,” Stoddard said in a tweet. “The problem here is that the DA didn’t charge him in time, so the jail had to release him. Not a bail issue, it’s the simple notion that we don’t incarcerate people who haven’t been charged with a crime.”
Leavitt said that the attorney’s office is reviewing the charges, determining which ones to file, and once the charges are filed then a warrant will be put out for Clark’s arrest.
“I would imagine charges will be filed today,” Leavitt said when asked about a timeline for those charges.
On Wednesday at approximately 4:30 p.m., the Utah County Attorney’s Office said the charges against Clark had been filed. These charges included assault against a peace officer or military service member, felony discharge of a firearm, aggravated assault, and felony discharge of a firearm.
The next step in the process is to have a judge sign off on the charges and have a warrant put out for his arrest.
The warrant for Clark’s arrest was signed at approximately 6 p.m. on Wednesday, according to the County Attorney’s Office, and was given to the Pleasant Grove Police Department to carry out.
Clark was arrested at 10 p.m. on Wednesday following the charges being filed and a warrant for his arrest being issued.