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Should the Salt Lake Police Department clean up house it tear-gassed?

The story

A Salt Lake family is at odds with the Salt Lake Police Department on whether the police are responsible for cleaning up the house into which they dumped 10 tear gas canisters.

The police had spotted a car with a license plate belonging to Roberto Miramontes Roman, the undocumented alien suspected of the roadside killing of Millard County Sheriff’s Deputy Josie Fox, not far from the house of his cousin, Guillermo Miramontes, in the Poplar Grove neighborhood of Salt Lake City. They had also supposedly detected a cell phone ‘ping’ (I assume this is a triangulation from cell phone towers) from Roman’s phone about 80 feet from the residence. And they supposedly had a witness who claimed to have seen someone matching Roman’s description leaving the home earlier.

Police Chief Chris Burbank later told the media that Ramundo Miramontes, a relative of Roman’s, had confirmed with the police that Roman was holed up in the home.

The police figured there was a pretty good chance he was inside, despite the insistence of Guillermo’s wife Salvia to the contrary.

Police searched the home with Salvia’s permission, though they apparently had a warrant handy in case she said no. First, though, they fired voluminous amounts of tear gas into it.

Roman was apprehended on Jan. 6 in a shed in Beaver County, far south of Salt Lake City.

Returning to their home after the raid, members of the Miramontes family–which includes Guillermo, Salvia and three of their children still living at home–were overcome with fumes from the canisters. The Salt Lake Valley Health Department inspected the house on Jan. 15 and told them it would be unhealthy to remain inside longer than 10 to 15 minutes. A cleanup company, ‘Certified Decontamination,’ estimated it would cost between $5,000 and $10,000 to make the house livable again.

The Miramontes have asked for $25,000 from Salt Lake City for damages and expenses. Burbank told them they would have to go through the “process” with their risk management department. He also said the walls, at least, could be cleaned with ivory soap and water.

Now the family is going through Burbank’s ‘process’ while having to spend their own money for a hotel room and restaurant food. In the meantime, they’ve thrown out their carpeting, furniture and food, and much of their clothing.

The question

Not that the Salt Lake Police Department would care what I think, but I believe they may have been right to fire tear gas into Guillermo Miramontes’s home. Of course, they could be lying their asses off about their reasons for doing so. Their chief witness, Ramundo Miramontes, swears he never told police Roman was in the home.

But the adults in the Miramontes family could by lying like rugs, too. Burbank told the press that several investigators witnessed Ramundo’s statement about Roman being in the house. And there’s the question of why Roman’s car was parked nearby, and why he—or someone with his cellphone—was making calls in the vicinity of the Miramontes’ home. Salvia Miramontes says she has no idea why the car was there.

Ramundo says a tape made during his questioning would exonerate him. Until the police release said tape, if it exists, the question of whether the police should reimburse the Miramontes will remain open.

About Christian Probasco

Christian Probasco is a roving reporter for New West. In fact, he roves all over the West driving a semi-tractor. When he is not driving, he makes his home in Mt. Pleasant, Utah.

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  1. The constabulary crowd gets away with way too much. When they trash private property they should be expected to make things right–particularly when it turns out they were in the wrong house. This should as well be the policy regarding their trashing of the natural environment…

  2. The issue is not were the police acting appropriatey, I believe that they were given the information that they had, was it excessive force, I believe it was. I also believe that the City has a responsibility to make it right, and not blame this family, If Ramon was never there as the family states, they are victims also, and should have their house repaired. This is America, right???