ST. GEORGE – The Washington County Critical Incident Task Force has been deployed to investigate an officer-involved shooting that occurred in Washington City Thursday, an incident that concluded with the death of the suspect now identified by the Washington County Attorney’s Office as Benjamin J. Schroff, 37. His family has issued a statement broadly, and his stepsister met with St. George News personally on Friday, sharing thoughts of her stepbrother.
Statement issued by the Washington County Attorney’s Office
The investigation is ongoing and investigators from multiple agencies are actively working on the case.
More: Bank robbery, kidnapping ends in fatal shooting; STGnews Videocast and News LIVE: Suspect in Zions Bank robbery confirmed dead
“The description of events described below is supported by the initial investigation,” the county attorney’s press release said, “but additional information may come to light as the investigation continues.”
On Thursday, at approximately 1:45 p.m., St. George Police officers responded to a report of a bank robbery at Zions Bank, located at 717 S. River Road in St. George.
The robbery suspect, now identified as Benjamin J. Schroff, 37, entered Zions Bank wearing a disguise and brandishing a firearm. Schroff demanded money and bank employees complied. After taking an undisclosed amount of money, Schroff took two female bank employees hostage.
Schroff and the hostages got into one of the hostage’s vehicles. One of the hostages drove the vehicle at the command of Schroff. Shortly after leaving the bank, a witness identified the vehicle Schroff and the hostages were in. After the vehicle was identified, many St. George Police officers caught up with the suspect and attempted to stop the vehicle.
Schroff demanded that the hostage keep driving as he began discharging firearms from the vehicle toward police officers, according to the press release. Schroff used at least two different firearms to shoot at the pursuing police vehicles. Many police vehicles were hit by bullets fired by Schroff, but no officers were injured.
The pursuit took the suspect, hostages and officers into Washington City. As the pursuit entered the area of 1575 South and Heritage Fields Drive in Washington, Schroff exited the vehicle and ran into a field carrying his firearms. After Schroff exited the vehicle, the two hostages escaped by driving away. The hostages were not physically injured.
Multiple police agencies responded to the area and set up a containment perimeter. While searching the area into which Schroff had fled, police encountered him. Schroff had a shotgun in his hands and was taking a shooting position toward police officers, according to the press release. Officers gave Schroff repeated verbal commands. Schroff did not comply with the officers’ commands. Officers discharged their firearms at Schroff to prevent him from harming the officers or other citizens. Two officers discharged their firearms and multiple shots were fired at Schroff by each officer.
Medical assistance was summoned immediately to provide medical attention to Schroff. However, he was pronounced dead at the scene, having succumbed to his injuries.
Two firearms were recovered at the scene, one handgun and one shotgun, which are believed to have been in Schroff’s possession, according to the county attorney’s press release. Evidence from the bank robbery was also recovered at the scene. At the time of the shooting, in addition to the firearms, Schroff was carrying additional ammunition and was wearing a bulletproof vest.
The investigation into the bank robbery is ongoing and is being conducted by the St. George Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The investigation into the shooting is also ongoing and being conducted by the Washington County Critical Incident Task Force.
Schroff’s family released the following statement concerning Thursday’s events:
We, the family, extend our sincerest apologies to all those who were impacted by the actions of our son, brother and father. We are not making any excuses for his actions but hope that your love and support will be shown to his family who is also suffering.
We are also specifically aware of the hostages, bank employees and all directly and indirectly affected that day. We are so sorry that you had to meet him at the lowest point of his life and hope that you will find strength and healing at this time.
His stepsister, Julie Santiago, sat down with St. George News Friday afternoon.
“He was a great guy,” Santiago said. It appeared he had fallen into “a bad and dark place and he didn’t see a way out out of it,” she said.
Schroff was born in the area and raised locally, Santiago said, and his stepfather is a retired police officer who served with a local agency. He had also recently opened a business in St. George and has worked as a roofer and a handyman.
Schroff was also the father of two children, ages 17 and 19. One of Schroff’s children had a disability, Santiago said, which led to Schroff becoming an advocate for disabled children. He also volunteered with the Coins for Kids charity.
Court records show Schroff was cited for traffic offenses and served 60 days in the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility in 2010 for speeding through a portion of Zion National Park while leaving the Kolob area with a hunting rifle hanging in the back window of his vehicle. For taking the rifle through that portion of the park, park rangers charged Schroff with improper transport of a weapon, as well as interfering with agency functions in addition to speeding. The charges stemming from the arrest were all rated as misdemeanors.
Ultimately, Santiago said, Schroff was a good man who made a mistake.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Washington County Attorney’s Office at 435-634-5723 or the St. George Police Department dispatch, if after hours, at 435-627-4300.
St. George News Reporter Travis Romney contributed to this report.
Ed. Note: It was originally reported that Schroff served six months in jail. This figure was reported in error and has been corrected.
- Bank robbery, kidnapping ends in fatal shooting; STGnews Videocast
- News LIVE: Suspect in Zions Bank robbery confirmed dead; updated 5:12 p.m.
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