PAYSON — A 17-year-old male turned himself in early Saturday morning after he allegedly attacked a man with a sledgehammer and then attacked a group of children with his fists on Friday in Payson.
Because he is a juvenile, police said they will not be releasing his name. Police said they identified him after "a series of leads provided by the public," and he turned himself in about 4 a.m. Saturday without incident.
Payson police said the juvenile has been arrested on suspicion of attempted aggravated murder, aggravated assault, aggravated child abuse, child abuse, burglary of a dwelling, obstruction of justice, criminal trespass and disorderly conduct. He is being held at Slate Canyon Youth Center, they said. "Payson police continues to send our thoughts to the victims impacted by this senseless act of violence perpetrated against them."
In all, two adults and six or seven children suffered various injuries in the attack, said Payson Police Sgt. Noemi Sandoval. She said a man who was attacked with the sledgehammer was flown to a hospital. Saturday morning, Payson police said that man is in critical condition and being treated in an intensive care unit.
The children, described as "preschool age," were not attacked by the sledgehammer but suffered "superficial injuries" from the incident, she added. They were taken by ambulance to a hospital, and police didn't know the extent of the children's injuries.
The attacks led to a shelter-in-place order in Payson that began before noon and was finally lifted as of 8:05 p.m., police said.
Officers spent hours Friday combing through the area searching for the alleged attacker.
Police were informed of the attack after responding to a report of a disturbance in the area of 600 East and 500 North about 10:30 a.m., according to Sandoval. A woman reported to officers that she saw a man striking her neighbor, another man, in the head with a sledgehammer.
"She observed that her neighbor was on the ground and there was another adult male standing over him, hitting on his body and head," Sandoval said.
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE REGARDING ATTEMPED AGGRAVATED MURDER SUSPECT APPREHENDED The suspect has been taken into...Posted by Payson Police Department - Utah on Saturday, August 15, 2020
The woman, whose home is in a day care facility, yelled at the man to stop. The man dropped the sledgehammer and then went toward the woman and the day care facility. That's when the man "began striking" multiple children and another adult at the day care, Sandoval continued.
Police weren't sure how long the man was at the facility but said he fled before officers arrived. It wasn't known which direction the man fled.
Police did not release the name or age of the man who was attacked with the sledgehammer. He was transferred to another hospital after being flown by medical helicopter from the scene, Sandoval said. The parents of the children were notified of the incident, officials added.
All residents of Payson were advised to shelter in place following the attack, the police department said in a Facebook post just before 11:40 a.m. Police said they were looking for a white man with long black hair that was kept in a bun. In a surveillance video released by police, the man was seen wearing a black shirt and black pants. Authorities originally said the man may have been accompanied by another person, but later said they are only searching for one person.
Investigators remained on scene Friday afternoon trying to piece together what happened. Sandoval said police don't know if the two men knew each other prior to the attack, but they do know that the people at the day care did not recognize the assailant.
"His acts of violence toward them and the children is just unfathomable, really. ... There’s no reason to attack any person, let alone children," Sandoval said. "It’s a pretty traumatic situation here in town so we’re just hoping to get the suspect into custody."
Multiple police agencies, including the Utah County Sheriff's Office and Utah Highway Patrol, responded to the area Friday afternoon to assist in searching for the man. "Payson Police Department would like to extend our sincere gratitude toward all the surrounding law enforcement agencies that responded and assisted in the investigation of this incident," they wrote Saturday.
Payson police also asked residents with surveillance video cameras in the area to review their footage to see if they captured images of the alleged attacker. "We would equally like to extend our gratitude who citizens who aided the investigations by reviewing home video surveillance and relayed any information they felt might aid in finding the suspect in this case," they wrote.
Contributing: Graham Dudley and Lauren Bennett, KSL.com; Paul Nelson, KSL NewsRadio