Salt Lake officer cleared in death of handcuffed man

Salt Lake officer cleared in death of handcuffed man

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SALT LAKE CITY — No charges will be filed in connection with the death of a man who was in police custody and handcuffed when he flung himself over a railing and fell two stories, ultimately suffering a fatal head injury, according to prosecutors.

On April 6 about 11:45 p.m., Salt Lake City police officers responded to a residence in the 200 block of Browning Avenue on a domestic violence call. Robert James Martinez, 38, was arrested for allegedly assaulting his girlfriend, according to police.

While he was in handcuffs, Martinez complained of leg pain from a prior incident, according to a report released Thursday from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. Medical crews were called, but Martinez refused treatment after they arrived. He also told emergency responders that he was not suicidal, according to the report.

As police began slowly escorting Martinez out of the apartment, he started crying and asked why he was under arrest and going to jail, the report states. An officer stood next to Martinez as they began walking down the staircase outside his apartment while holding onto Martinez’s elbow.

But after going down two or three steps, Martinez suddenly went over the staircase railing and fell to the ground, hitting his head on the pavement. He was actually able to stand up and walk himself to a gurney before medical crews transported him to a local hospital, Gill’s report stated. But 10 days later, Martinez died from his injuries.

In his written police report, officer Andrew Echols said he was taking his time walking Martinez down the stairs when Martinez paused on the third step.

“I thought he was taking a break or making sure his footing was secure. I was mistaken,” he wrote. “Martinez jumped over the railing and purposely went head-first into the ground from about 10 feet high. I was unable to stop him from falling even though I tried to hold on. Martinez appeared to be close to 300 pounds, close to double my own weight.”

In making his decision, Gill stated that the officer’s body camera video as well as nearby surveillance video was reviewed.

“We see no evidence that Mr. Martinez’s fall over the railing was the result of anyone’s actions other than Mr. Martinez’s,” Gill wrote in his report.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.


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