EXCLUSIVE: Salt Lake City Police officers stood by doing nothing for almost eight minutes as Ryan Outlaw lay dying in November 2020. Two years on, his family has learned the truth about his final moments, reports Andrea Blanco
When Salt Lake City Police notified Willie Outlaw in November 2020 that his 39-year-old son Ryan had been killed, he didn’t even think to question what they told him.
More than 1,600 miles away at his home in Mississippi, he believed that Ryan was simply a tragic victim of domestic violence with his girlfriend Jennifer Tobar stabbing him to death inside their apartment building.
“We were basically told that he had been stabbed and was deceased, and they explained that she was in custody but that was about it,” Mr Outlaw, 66, told The Independent.
Almost two years later, when he saw bodycam footage of two police officers standing around doing nothing for almost eight minutes as the Black man bled out inside an elevator, he learned the devastating truth about his son’s final moments.
“To see my son begging for help, to see that he could still move, that he could still talk…” Mr Outlaw said, choking back tears.
In the harrowing footage, first obtained by Fox13 reporters who tracked down Mr Outlaw and showed him the video, Ryan is seen lying on the elevator floor, conscious, groaning in pain and saying that he can’t breathe as a pool of blood forms beneath his body.
Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) Officers Ian Anderson and Jaddah Brown are seen standing by as crucial minutes to save Ryan’s life tick by.
They fail to administer any first aid and instead just wait for paramedics to arrive on the scene.
At one point, Officer Anderson is seen ordering a barely conscious and heavily bleeding Ryan to crawl out of the elevator.
He is then heard saying “what do you want me to do? Medical is coming,” when Ryan’s killer begs the officers to try to save her boyfriend’s life.
At no point do either of the officers provide medical care or even touch the 39-year-old as he lies dying on the ground.
Ryan eventually got the medical help he needed when an ambulance arrived and took him to hospital – eight minutes after the officers first arrived on the scene and more than 30 minutes after the first 911 call was made by a neighbour who heard Ryan’s screams in the hallways of the apartment building.
‘Being hit twice’
Ryan’s cousin London Outlaw described learning what happened in his final moments as “like being hit twice” by his death.
“First, we’re hit by this bulldozer and then you are recovering and you do all of these things to cope and time goes by and you come to terms,” she told The Independent.
“And then all of a sudden you’re hit again because you find out that he could have lived through his injuries if the police had intervened.”
Hearing Ryan’s voice in the bodycam video especially renewed that pain, she said.
“It was hard, I wasn’t going to watch and I looked at it. I didn’t expect to hear his voice,” she said.
“He was still conscious and he was trying to get help. I don’t know who in their right mind would tell a stab victim to get himself out of the elevator, I was shocked to see that.”
Having to watch his son’s final moments was “tough” for Mr Outlaw. He said he had to view the video in more than one sitting to try to get through it.
“It was really low [from the officers]. I mean, you have to show some kind of compassion. I don’t understand, they were so nonchalant. He’s dying, he’s begging for his life,” he said.
As well as the delay in administering aid to Ryan, questions have also been raised around how long it took for emergency services to respond in the first place.
And whether these delays – and the officers’ inactions – could have cost Ryan his life.
In total, four 911 calls were made before police arrived at the scene of the fatal stabbing on 13 November 2020.
SLCPD said that the incident was initially reported as “Domestic – Just Occurred” because the first 911 call – at 5.56pm – did not indicate that a stabbing had taken place.
No officers were available, and given the second priority category of the incident, nobody responded to the scene expeditiously, SLCPD said.
When the second call then reported “a woman was screaming for help and gave dispatchers a possible apartment number” at 6.21pm, EMS were still not immediately dispatched.
The department said the 911 operator only learned of the stabbing from the third 911 call.
“The third 911 call was made at [6.23pm] from an apartment resident and lasted four minutes and 23 seconds. As this call was being made, officers arrived on the scene,” the department said in a statement.
“While on the phone with SLC911, the caller advised that someone may have been stabbed, based on what she heard and saw from within her apartment.”
It is unclear at what point in the third call the neighbour alerted the operator of the stabbing.
In total, it took dispatchers roughly 14 minutes after learning that the situation involved a fight to send EMS – the department said there was no evidence of the stabbing at the time.
The two officers arrived at 6.23pm – almost 30 minutes after the first call was made.
Paramedics were called at 6.25pm and arrived at 6.31pm – eight minutes after the officers.
Ryan died at the hospital around 90 minutes later at 8.06pm.
Full bodycam footage, obtained by The Independent, shows Officer Anderson around one hour later playing games and scrolling through TikTok as he sits on the stairs of the building where Ryan was stabbed. He is on and off his phone for almost an hour as he and other law enforcement officials investigate the Black man’s death.
When the video of Ryan was first shared by Fox13, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mark Brown defended the officers’ actions.
In a statement to the outlet, he said that they had responded in line with training and “made the best decisions they could in a very dynamic and difficult situation.”
‘Political mumbo jumbo’
But Dr David Thomas, a retired Gainesville, Florida, police officer, author, policing expert, and professor at the Florida Gulf Coast University, believes outrage over the video is justified.
“My first impression … I was angry, because I don’t think anybody should lay there [while] needing service,” Dr Thomas told The Independent.
“You shouldn’t be asking somebody who is bleeding out to crawl out of the elevator. It just defies logic.”
Dr Thomas said that officers are trained to perform life-saving care and that most police departments across the US require officers to carry compression bandages that they can use on fellow officers or on trauma victims when needed.
“They also have some sort of training in first aid and CPR, which means they have some kind of equipment at any given time to be able to go and help somebody,” he said.
SLCPD did not respond to The Independent’s request about whether their officers carry such equipment or about what its policy is around rendering aid to stabbing victims.
However, Fox13 revealed that all officers in Utah receive 12 hours of medical training on CPR, first aid and trauma care.
The police department has claimed that Officer Anderson was concerned that the elevator doors would close and that both officers were trying to preserve the crime scene.
But that excuse also falls short, said Dr Andrew Scott, a former Boca Raton, Florida, police chief and policing consultant.
“I think that is disingenuous and it is very simple to stop the elevator from closing its doors. There are usually bottoms to stop the doors from closing,” Dr Scott told The Independent.
“Preservation of life is the most immediate concern for everybody. That scene is going to get contaminated regardless because you [have] got rescue coming and they are going to do what they need to do to save his life.”
Dr Thomas echoed his assessment, calling SLCPD’s statement about the officers’ response “political mumbo jumbo”.
“We can worry about the crime scene and everything else later,” he said.
“If you can protect the scene fine but there is no greater priority in a response other than safety and a person’s life. That’s it. Everything else comes second.”
He added: “Paramedics go to scenes all the time. And evidence often gets destroyed because the priority is life. If you have him crawling out of the elevator … Now you have two scenes and you created a blood trail that wasn’t necessary.”
“In this case, I think they failed miserably because they should have rendered some sort of medical service. Eight minutes is a long time to wait for EMS. That’s a long time.”
Dr Scott noted that there is no way of knowing whether the officers’ intervention would have helped save Ryan’s life, but noted that “the optics aren’t good”.
“What’s concerning is their … demeanour, they query him and ask him to crawl out of the elevator, that does not look good from an optic perspective and a procedural perspective,” he said.
Mr Outlaw believes the incident was racially motivated and that the officers showed a disregard for his son’s life and integrity.
Fight for accountability
SLCPD told The Independent that it has now opened a “preliminary review” into the officers’ response to the stabbing.
“At this point, the City is doing a review [of] the facts, policy and law around this incident and we can’t comment at this time. This is considered a preliminary review only,” a spokesperson said.
But Dr Thomas cast doubt on whether an internal investigation will actually lead to answers or meaningful change.
“I can’t imagine the Salt Lake City Police Department not giving some kind of guidance to these officers,” Dr Thomas said.
“The fact that they are standing around for … eight minutes, having a conversation with him, that concerns me because there is little regard that this gentleman is injured.”
If SLCPD finds that the officers were indeed following the department’s protocol, then it’s clear that policies need to change, said Dr Scott.
“If they are trained not to do anything then that protocol’s got to change. I can’t imagine they’re not trained to do the most basic form of first aid,” he said.
“[If that’s the case], then that needs to be reassessed and officers need to get retrained.”
Dr Scott did note that while officers receive medical training in the academy, once in the force they are not retrained very often.
Aside from a review of departmental policies, Dr Thomas told The Independent that there could be grounds to hold the officers criminally responsible for what happened.
“It just takes somebody complaining loud enough for [the case] to end up in the [District] Attorney’s office,” he said.
“[The officers] can be charged legally for malfeasance of duty and negligence, meaning they were just not doing their job. Especially [if] they had the tools and abilities to do so, there’s just no reason not to.”
At the time of publication, the two officers remain employed by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
Tobar was convicted of third-degree manslaughter in December 2021 and sentenced to serve 180 days in jail.
Mr Outlaw said he learned over the weekend that Tobar is now on the run after she was released in June and violated her five-year parole just one month later. A no-bail warrant was issued for her arrest and, according to the Utah Department of Corrections’ website, she is yet to be re-arrested.
Mr Outlaw said that Salt Lake City authorities failed to notify him about Tobar, leaving him to find out about her parole violation from a relative who sent an article about it to him.
“I didn’t know that they couldn’t locate her. The last I heard, they claimed she was going to be placed in some sort of program,” Mr Outlaw said.
“I listened to the court [hearings] and they said [so]. But they didn’t mention she had fled.”
He feels that authorities are once again failing Ryan, even after his death.
“There are so many questions, unanswered questions about this situation. From just looking at the video, it’s scary … Their unconcerned attitude, it’s scary,” he said.
Ryan’s family have been left trying to recover – first from his death and now from the new revelations surrounding it.
His twin brother and best friend Brian misses him dearly.
His mother to this day drives an extra three miles to avoid passing by the cemetery where her son is buried.
Ryan’s four sons Brian Jr, 21, Omary, 18, Ashton, 16, Prince, 5, have also been deeply affected, said Mr Outlaw, and he won’t let them see the video.
“The oldest ones are having the most issues. [Ashton], he is quiet, he is focusing on high school football. The youngest one doesn’t really understand, he just knows his daddy is not around but he looks at his picture on the wall every day,” Mr Outlaw said.
“I won’t let them look at [the video]. It took me a while. I had to start and stop it [several times]. It’s messed up.”
While Mr Outlaw said he isn’t sure yet whether to take legal action against police, he is determined to get justice for his son.
“I’m looking, I’m trying to get some advice,” he said.
“I know something needs to be done. I’ll be less of a man if something isn’t done for my son.”