Man faces second-degree felony charges in lye attack

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TOOELE — A Tooele man is recovering from severe burns and another man is under arrest after a chemical lye attack.

Police said the victim may permanently lose sight in one eye.

The incident began on Sept. 7, when Tooele police officers were called to 296 N. Coleman just before 2 a.m. The person who called 911 told dispatchers that his friend Townsend Harmer "had been assaulted and that the skin on his face was peeling off," according to charging documents. Officers arrived and observed that Harmer's face, neck and chest were red.

"His left eye was white and some of his hair was falling out," a police affidavit states.

Harmer was flown by medical helicopter to University Hospital. He suffered first- and second-degree burns on his face, scalp, and neck and lost his vision in his left eye, according to police.

Harmer told officers that he had answered a knock at his door, "and when he opened it he was hit in the left eye and then he was sprayed with an unknown substance," according to the affidavit.

When police returned to Harmer's house to collect more evidence, they noted the substance that was allegedly thrown at him "had begun to eat away at the paint on the door and the brass finish on the door knob," the affidavit states.

Later that night, investigators received a tip that Gilmore was responsible for the attack. Based on the tip, detectives were led to an area where they said they recovered a container that held the lye as well as gloves that Gilmore wore.

Harmer was able to pick Gilmore out of a photo lineup, according to police.

Tips led police to arrest 42-year-old Richard Gilmore.

During the interview, Mr. Gilmore stated that Mr. Harmer got what he deserved for disrespecting him and his wife's property.

–Court Documents

The probable cause statement said police recovered gloves and a lye container that Gilmore allegedly dumped in a field. It also said Gilmore told the principal at his children's school that he beat up a man who "got what he deserved" for damaging Gilmore's wife's car.

Gilmore, 43, of Tooele, was charged Monday in 3rd District Court with aggravated assault resulting in serious bodily injury, and mayhem, both second-degree felonies.

On Sept. 19, detectives were called to investigate a separate case allegedly involving Gilmore at East Elementary School. The school principal told police that a week earlier, Gilmore was dropping off his children at school in a vehicle he didn't normally drive. When asked about it, Gilmore said his vehicle had been stolen. But he also mentioned "that he had taken care of it," the affidavit states.

"I got a lot of people pissed off at me, but he got what he deserved," he told the principal, according to court documents.

Gilmore continued with his comments the next day, telling the principal that "he hated to beat up the guy, but that he got what he deserved," police wrote.

Detectives interviewed Gilmore on Sept. 25, at which time he admitted to spraying lye on Harmer because he believed Harmer stole his wife's vehicle and damaged it, according to court documents. "During the interview, Mr. Gilmore stated that Mr. Harmer got what he deserved for disrespecting him and his wife's property."

Harmer was charged Sept. 15 in Tooele County Justice Court with theft, a class B misdemeanor. Court records do not indicate whether he stole a car.

Contributing: Mary Richards


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