Bystander steps in when suspect threatens woman with ax on River Road

Stock image by Cody Blowers, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Payson man was arrested Sunday following a call to 911 reporting a suspect wielding an ax in the parking lot of a shopping center on River Road.

This 2020 file photo for illustrative purposes shows the parking lot of the shopping center on South River Road, St. George, Utah, Oct. 15, 2020 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

The incident started Sunday afternoon when officers were dispatched to the 400 block of South River Road on a report of a man running around the parking lot wielding an ax.

According to the probable cause statement filed in support of the arrest, officers arrived to find a man matching the description provided by the 911 caller. The man was later identified as 39-year-old Derrick Don White.

A witness told responding officers that White was in the parking lot swinging an ax, yelling about his missing dog and using the ax to chop at the branches of a small tree in the parking lot. The reporting party said she approached the man to calm him down, “concerned he was going to harm someone.”

According to the probable cause statement, those efforts were unsuccessful, and the suspect allegedly raised the ax and ran toward the caller threatening to “kill” her children. He then reportedly set the ax down and ran toward her again.

Officers spoke to several other witnesses who reported the suspect running toward the woman and yelling at her, which is when a bystander stepped in to prevent White from harming her. Surveillance footage captured from one of the stores also showed the suspect running aggressively toward the woman.

Officers also noticed damage consistent with the use of an ax to one of the small trees in the parking lot, and authorities recovered a large metal hatchet with a blue handle that was located nearby.

Officers confronted the suspect who “confirmed he used the hatchet to take out his frustrations for his missing dog on the tree,” the officer wrote. White also allegedly said he was angry with the witness for calling the police and that he ran toward her.

In this 2020 file photo for illustrative purposes only numerous police vehicles park in front of Target on South River Road, St. George, Utah, Dec. 15, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

While the suspect denied any intention of harming the caller – and the probable cause statement doesn’t specify if White admitted to holding the ax at the time he charged her – he did tell police he was going to kill her for getting involved in his business.

Officers wrote that White appeared to be intoxicated, and he was arrested and transported to Purgatory Correctional Facility facing third-degree felony assault. He also faces three misdemeanor charges, including possession of a dangerous weapon, the ax, by a restricted person, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct after being asked to stop.

The suspect also has an extensive criminal history dating back more than 20 years that includes convictions for drugs, weapons, theft and an arson conviction from 2011.

Following Sunday’s arrest the suspect remains in custody without bail due to “clear and convincing evidence” he would constitute a substantial danger to the community or would likely flee the court’s jurisdiction if released, according to the bail order signed by District Judge Eric A. Ludlow.

Ed. Note: A new Utah law generally prohibits the release of arrest booking photos until after a conviction is obtained. 

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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