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Cedar Hills house in standoff was heavily fortified inside, police say

Police respond to a neighborhood in Cedar Hills on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, where they ultimately arrested a couple who they say owe $1 million in taxes and have been illegally living in their former home.

(Ray Boone, KSL TV, File)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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CEDAR HILLS — Weapons, sandbags and possible bomb-making materials were all found inside a Cedar Hills home that was being fortified by a couple who returned to the house after being evicted, according to new court documents.

In September, Paul Kenneth Cromar, 61, and his wife, Barbara Cromar, 57, were arrested following an armed standoff after police say they were evicted from their house, but they moved back in without permission and allegedly said they wouldn’t leave again.

A new search warrant affidavit unsealed in 4th District Court gives more information about what SWAT team members and Utah County sheriff’s investigators found when they entered the home.

As SWAT began to clear the house on Sept. 24, they discovered “wood 2x4s had been placed in strategic locations so as to block the ingress and egress of anyone attempting to gain access,” the warrant states.

They found sandbags immediately upon entering the house, “which in some spots ran from the floor to the ceiling,” according to the affidavit, which describes the sandbags as being arranged in a “fighting position.”

“Throughout the residence SWAT operators observed several sandbag-fortified fighting positions, weapons were observed in key positions within the residence. In one bedroom on the second floor there was a handgun, shotgun and an AK-47 with loaded magazines strategically placed near them,” the warrant states.

The basement was also fortified with wooden boards and sandbags, according to police.

“Upon entering one of the basement rooms, SWAT operators encountered a large amount of hydrogen peroxide, magnesium metal and matches and match heads. Based upon specialized training ... regarding domestic terrorism and homemade explosives I recognize these items as items that can be used to make homemade explosives. It is unreasonable for normal citizens to possess such large quantities of these specific items,” officers noted in the warrant.

Throughout the residence SWAT operators observed several sandbag-fortified fighting positions, weapons were observed in key positions within the residence.

–Search warrant affidavit

“Based upon my training and experience I know that far-right-leaning groups such as the groups associated with constitutionalists will oftentimes use items such as metal powder, hydrogen peroxide and matches to make homemade explosives to further carry out their agenda and/or cause terror to those who oppose them,” the affidavit states.

According to the sheriff’s office, the Cromars did not file tax returns from 1999-2005 and owed more than $1 million in taxes. Because of that, the federal government took possession of their house, 9870 N. Meadow Drive, and U.S. marshals evicted them in 2019. The house was put up for auction and sold to a new owner, according to the sheriff’s office.

But police say the Cromars later broke back into the house and began living there again.

“Ken was confronted about living in the residence which no longer belonged to him by the American Fork police, to which he said it was none of their business and refused to further engage them,” the search warrant states.

On Aug. 19, a new court-ordered eviction notice was delivered to the Cromars.

But the Cromars stayed. And according to a statement from the sheriff’s office on Sept, 25, “the Cromars have aligned themselves with people who support their effort to oppose lawful court orders and to get their former home back. ... At least one supporter had said he was willing to lay down his life in defense of the Cromars’ home against the government.”

The warrant further notes that some of the people helping the Cromars were “directly involved with the standoff in Nevada with the Bureau of Land Management at the Bundy Ranch in 2014 and the standoff in Oregon at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.”

Investigators began holding surveillance on the Cedar Hills house after a neighbor reported seeing “a large group of adult males in the backyard wearing military camouflage practicing ‘movements,’” the warrant says.

Other neighbors reported seeing numerous sandbags being carried into the home.

“The actions of Ken and the other individuals he keeps company with are alarming to the citizens of the neighborhood who are living in fear of Ken. During other surveillance missions, detectives and deputies have seen militia-like individuals ‘guarding’ the residence, some of these individuals were seen with firearms,” according to the warrant.

On Sept. 24, officers from numerous agencies surrounded the house. SWAT members observed people who were “dressed in what appeared to be full military style gear, including tactical bulletproof vests,” according to the warrant.

Police also learned that the group was broadcasting the confrontation with law enforcement live on social media.

Despite others in the house being vocal in their support of the Cromars, the sheriff's office noted that the occupants left without incident and no shots were fired.

The Cromars have each by been charged in 4th District Court with burglary, a second-degree felony, and wrongful appropriation, a third-degree felony. Their next court appearance is scheduled for Thursday. The Cromars have been ordered to wear a GPS ankle monitor while they are free pending court hearings.

According to court records, Ken Cromar is representing himself, though the court has advised him to get an attorney.

Cromar has also filed a federal civil lawsuit against 4th District Judge Kraig Powell claiming his constitutional rights were violated when he was evicted.

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