A year after Sundance attack, chief says Park City is safe | ParkRecord.com
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A year after Sundance attack, chief says Park City is safe

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The typical fare on Main Street during the Sundance Film Festival includes lots of revelry, filmmakers hawking their movies and camera-carrying celebrity gawkers looking for the stars.

But in 2009 the sidewalk on Main Street was the site of a brutal attack during the opening weekend of Sundance, a rare act of random street violence in Park City, a community that is widely considered as being a safe place at all hours.

The Park City Police Department, the lead law enforcement agency protecting the city, is prepared for Sundance, which opens on Thursday and has its first full day of screenings on Friday. The festival is typically the busiest 10-day stretch of the year for the Police Department, which is called to handle a crush of mostly minor cases like complaints about parking problems and loud parties.

Wade Carpenter, the chief of police, has put together a plan to protect the city during what will be his second Sundance as the city’s top law enforcement officer. He said in an interview, though, there will not be significant changes in the department’s overall blueprints in response to last year’s attack.

Carpenter said Park City is a safe place during the festival regardless of the 2009 episode, which left a Sundance visitor badly injured. The police chief said the attack was an "isolated incident."

"I don’t think that was indicative of Sundance itself," he said, calling the attack a "fluke situation."

The 2009 attack occurred during the busy opening weekend of the festival. A visitor from Los Angeles and the people he was with encountered two men on the upper stretch of Main Street.

Words were exchanged and the Los Angeles man wrestled with one of the men. The man from Los Angeles ended up on the ground and the second man viciously kicked him in the head, causing extensive facial injuries that have required repeated surgeries.

Officers quickly caught the second man nearby. The police chief said the response was swift. The officers who arrived first were "literally running up the street," Carpenter said.

A jury later convicted John Cook, a 26-year-old from Lindon, of a misdemeanor assault count. A judge in November sentenced Cook to 300 days in jail. Judge Bruce Lubeck also ordered him to pay $11,514 in restitution to the victim and $5,122 in restitution to the state. Lubeck called the confrontation a "monstrous event" as he sent Cook to jail.

The other man charged in the case, Kyle Erickson, 25 years old and from Lehi, is next scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 27, amid this year’s festival. He faces four charges, including two assault counts. Erickson fled after the attack and eluded the police until his midsummer capture in Utah County. There have been indications prosecutors and Erickson could reach a plea agreement.

The police chief said the law enforcement presence during Sundance is expanded with the Police Department’s pool of reservists. The department also contracts with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office to put deputies on patrol for some shifts. Carpenter said the reservists, the deputies and the department’s own police officers working extra shifts increase the force by approximately 20 percent during Sundance. The officers will conduct foot patrols on Main Street in addition to their traffic duties and responding to calls.

Meanwhile, Carpenter anticipates continuing to assign what he calls problem-solving teams of officers to spots that need extra police attention. The teams normally have two officers each. He said at least two additional teams will be on patrol with the possibility of a third one if needed. The teams have been used for years during Sundance, he said.

"I think it’s safe. I don’t hesitate to have my family up there at all," the police chief said.


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