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WEST VALLEY CITY — Two people were arrested Wednesday, and police were looking for a third person in connection with the death of a man who was run over by a trailer after he chased after thieves who had stolen the trailer he had borrowed from a friend, police say.
Eric Carter, 49, was found dead in the middle of the road near 5000 W. Royal Ann Dr. (4490 South) about 6 p.m. Tuesday while West Valley police were investigating a report of a stolen trailer.
The incident began Tuesday when Jesse Searle, 34, and Jay Urry, 41, went to 4521 S. 4840 West between noon and 1 p.m. to "steal items which they believed to be abandoned," a Salt Lake County Jail report states. The two hooked up the trailer to their pickup truck and left, then returned about 5:30 p.m. with the trailer and Jeanette Miner, 26, to allegedly steal more items, the report states.
It was unclear Wednesday whether anything was inside the trailer.
During their second theft attempt, they were spotted by Carter who called 911 to report that his friend's trailer was being stolen, said West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku.
"While he was on the phone with dispatchers, he told them that he had jumped into the back of the pickup truck and was providing information to the dispatchers," she said.
But after several minutes, the dispatchers "lost communication with him," Vainuku said. She did not know Wednesday if that was because of bad reception, or because something happened to either Carter or his phone.
Investigators believe the truck stopped at one point at a church, 4420 S. Early Duke St. (5100 West). Searle walked away, but the other two allegedly confronted Carter and got into a verbal argument with him.
Miner got back into the truck and started to drive away while Carter was still "standing on the tongue of the trailer," according to the report.
The truck caught up with Searle, at which point Miner told him to "get (Carter) out of there," the report states. Searle and Carter began fighting. As this was happening, Miner took off again, police said.
"And during this confrontation, the victim was actually run over by the trailer and killed," Vainuku said. "We don't know if it was on purpose or on accident, but we do believe there was a moment where this vehicle was stopped by the suspects, some sort of confrontation occurred and that this victim was subsequently run over by the trailer."
Police officers who were already responding to the area found Carter's body a few blocks away from where the trailer was stolen.
One of Carter's friends, Kayla Jones, said Wednesday that he was the type of person who helped anyone.
"Seriously, I can't believe how many times he'd pull over and help people on the side of the road for whatever reason," she said. "He bent over backwards to help anybody and everybody that he can. It's just not fair."
Jones called Carter "a man I looked up to like my dad," but also noted he had a stubborn side.
"He's not going to go down without a fight," she said.
Jones said Carter had been evicted from his home and had borrowed a friend's trailer to move out. An eviction notice remained posted on his front door Wednesday.
As for Carter's actions, Vainuku said police would not advise people to ever go after criminals on their own.
"There is no justification for what happened to him. But we would certainly say if someone is stealing your property, you really have to evaluate how much that property is worth to you," she said.
The pickup truck was found late Tuesday in Kearns, Vainuku said. Miner reported it stolen after the incident "to thwart the efforts of law enforcement," the report states. The truck, however, does not belong to Miner, according to police. Searle also tried to "thwart the efforts" of police by dumping his clothing as he fled, police wrote.
The trailer was recovered in West Valley City. Vainuku did not know Wednesday if detectives had spoken with the trailer's owner, Carter's friend.
Searle and Miner were later found, arrested and booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of murder, robbery and obstruction of justice. The search for Urry continued Wednesday.
All three have criminal histories. Searle and Urry each have lengthy records consisting mostly of theft and drug-related crimes, according to Utah state court records.
Anyone with information on Urry is asked to contact West Valley police at 801-840-4000.
Contributing: Mike Anderson