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Gill to Mendenhall: 'Mayor, where are my police officers to protect my building?'

Protest in downtown Salt Lake City of police shooting ruling (Photo: KUTV)
Protest in downtown Salt Lake City of police shooting ruling (Photo: KUTV)
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On July 9, protesters painted the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office red, a response to Sim Gill ruling the Bernado Palacios-Carbajal shooting justified.

The protest escalated; demonstrators broke windows. A 2News investigation discovered that District Attorney Sim Gill had questioned where Salt Lake City Police officers were, sending texts to Chief Mike Brown and Mayor Erin Mendenhall.

In a text to Mendenhall, Gill asks, "Mayor, where are my police officers to protect my building? We asked for assistance and we got none. I have over 100K in damage."

Protesters policing themselves blocked 2News cameras from the scene unfolding in front of the District Attorney's Office.

Hundreds of gallons of paint were dumped, according to police accounts. Gill says the building was splattered with obscenities.

The destruction that had started and the escalation to where it was going, our concern was we crossed the threshold but that if a response did not come in a timely fashion it did not put at risk the officers inside this building," Gill said.

RELATED: Salt Lake woman could face life in prison, accused of buying paint for a protest

Gill knew the country was already at a boiling point after weeks of protests.

On the morning of July 9, he called the governor, Chief Brown, and Mayor Mendenhall to warn them he was about to rule the shooting of Bernado Palacios-Carbajal justified.

Protests, even violence, should be expected, he told them.

We had come up with our contingency plans at that point and how to protect and defend the building in terms of any breach that may happen," Gill said.

Gill says he cleared out his building, leaving behind a handful of his investigators, who are also sworn officers.

One of those investigators was set aside, embedded for the night at police headquarters.

Gill was watching the scene play out like everyone else — on television — and getting increasingly worried why no one was stepping in.

I was texting the chief, I was in communications with people in the building here, I understood the urgency they were feeling, and when I did not feel like a response was coming in a way we needed I tried to text everybody and anybody," Gill says.

Concerns were heightened after a cop car burned on the streets of Salt Lake weeks earlier.

"My two fundamental concerns were the safety of the people here and the safety of our community outside the building," Gill said. "As the incidents started to escalate, my concern was peaceful protesters there that would be caught in the crossfire."

After an hour, Gill texted Mendenhall to find out what the city's response would be.

"This was very urgent for us at this moment," he said.

When asked if anyone answered his texts, he claimed Chief Brown answered and told him he had an investigator embedded at headquarters.

But, Gill knew that officer had no power.

The mayor, who is technically in command of the police chief, did not respond.

Mendenhall's office declined to be interviewed for this story, but issued a statement:

Our intent on July 9 was the same as it had been since the day demonstrations began in Salt Lake City – to provide demonstrators with a place to peacefully exercise their first amendment rights, but ultimately as mayor I do not direct the tactical operations of our police officers.

Salt Lake City Police Department also declined an interview, referring the KUTV Investigative Team to statements made the day after the protests.

On July 10, Det, Greg Wilking told 2News the police and the protesters did not have a formal agreement about when to step in during the protest.

Formal or not, Salt Lake police officers gave protesters the right to peacefully assemble and protest.

I don't want to say the paint was okay, but we can identify the individuals involved in that, and apprehend them at a later time," Wilking said.

Gill claims he understands that was a policy decision made by a separate, sovereign office, but respectfully disagrees.

When all was said and done, Gill says the protection he was pleading for came in the form of an emergency order from the governor.

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"I believe we needed that level of protection, and I didn’t care where it came from," he told 2News.

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