Man accused of assaulting Black Lives Matter protesters claims self-defense
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – A Provo man accused of threatening and assaulting Black Lives Matter protesters in West Valley City in 2020 is seeking to have the charges against him thrown out under a new self-defense law that went into effect in Utah last year.
According to charging documents, Randall Schroerlucke, 45, threatened protesters with a gun, pepper-sprayed four people and used a Taser on a fifth person. He’s facing seven misdemeanor charges including threatening to use a dangerous weapon in a fight, disorderly conduct, and several counts of assault.
Schroerlucke was among roughly 60 people – including protesters and counter-protesters – gathered outside the West Valley City Police Department for a Black Lives Matter rally on Sept. 16, 2020.
“During the protest, the Defendant exhibited a firearm in an angry and threatening manner,” charging documents state.
According to a probable cause statement, videos recorded at the protest show Schroerlucke brandishing a firearm, pepper-spraying protesters and deploying a Taser.
Motions filed by Schroerlucke’s defense attorney claim Schroerlucke was assaulted first, then acted to defend himself. He contends the same video evidence collected by prosecutors to substantiate the charges against Schroerlucke will prove his actions were justified. Schroerlucke’s jury trial was originally set for December 2021. In November, the KSL Investigators first reported on Utah’s new self-defense law, which creates an opportunity for defendants who claim self-defense to have their charges dismissed before going to trial.
Days later, Schroerlucke’s attorney filed a motion requesting a hearing to determine whether he acted in self-defense.
Under HB227, prosecutors must now prove by clear and convincing evidence in a pre-trial hearing that the defendant did not act in self-defense or in the defense of others. If prosecutors cannot prove that an individual’s use of force was not justified during the justification hearing, the case is dismissed before it ever goes to a jury.
During a hearing on Thursday, attorneys made arguments about whether the new law should be applied to Schroerlucke’s case.
“He started this,” said prosecutor Yvette Rodier. “He showed up to West Valley City to antagonize and to provoke these individuals and then to be able to use force on them.”
Defense attorney Robert Cummings argued, “There was an objective basis to be concerned and fear for one’s life.”
In an unusual move, Third District Court Judge Vernice Trease restricted members of the media from recording video of Schroerlucke’s face inside the courtroom during his court hearing on Thursday. Cummings advocated for the restriction, saying his client has received threats as a result of the pending criminal case. Trease also barred journalists from recording video showing the faces of victims and witnesses involved in the hearing.
A ruling on whether the new legal process will be applied to the case is scheduled for April 24. It’s possible it will take two more hearings before the issue of self-defense and whether the case will go to trial is decided.
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