Police investigating email threat to SL councilman over shelter sites

Police investigating email threat to SL councilman over shelter sites

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News, file)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Police are investigating threats and an anti-gay slur in an email to Salt Lake City Councilman Derek Kitchen over the city's plans to place a homeless shelter near the sender's downtown home.

City Council members say a barrage of vulgar emails and threats have been hitting their inboxes since city officials announced sites of four homeless resource centers last week.

Kitchen, who is openly gay, said he normally isn't bothered by such emails, but he found this one particularly jarring.

"It did make me nervous," he said. "I went and double-checked to make sure my door was locked."

In the email, which Kitchen reported to police and posted on Facebook, the sender addressed the city councilman with an anti-gay slur and complained that one of the shelter sites is two blocks away from a home he's owned for 20 years.

The sender also used an expletive in suggesting to Kitchen that he would "(mess) you up."

"Watch your back and I promise to hire someone to see you soon," the email states.

Salt Lake Police Sgt. Brandon Shear said detectives met Wednesday with the sender of the email, John Donovan. The man's name and address were contained in the message.

Donovan was not taken into custody, Shear said, but the case is being screened for possible charges by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

"He did have an explanation for what he wrote," Shear said, though the sergeant would not elaborate on what Donovan told detectives because it's still under investigation.

Kitchen said he shared the email on Facebook in hopes of having "a conversation about what is not appropriate," while emphasizing that he promised to represent all residents in his downtown district, including people struggling with homelessness.

"I want the community to realize what some of the council members are facing. This struck an emotional nerve with me," he said Thursday. "I wanted to expose there's some of this nastiness right underneath our noses in our community, and we all need to be diligent about calling it out so we can put a stop to it."

After the Facebook post was shared more than 400 times and Kitchen became aware that people were threatening to harass the sender, the councilman deleted the message.

Kitchen said he regretted not censoring the sender's address.

"I felt that he was made vulnerable," he said.

Kitchen said he plans to leave the matter to police to handle, though his personal attorney told the councilman he could potentially pursue legal action.


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