LOGAN, Utah — Generally speaking, police reports are cold, procedural documents, filled with details and observations. But sometimes, if you look closely, a story emerges in a way that redefines an event.
Such is the case in Logan City police reports related to the April 27 death of a Logan man — who was raised in Bear Lake County in Idaho — after what appeared to be a simple assault.
The story within the corresponding police reports naturally includes the victim, 62-year-old Michael Fife, but also includes a story of a young girl whose life may have been shaped by a prior trauma and her overprotective older brother who, it seems, thought he was being helpful.
The details were revealed bit by bit over the span of a week as police conducted interviews with everyone involved, including Fife, still conscious when police visited him in the emergency room at Logan Regional Hospital.
“Michael did not know who hit him, or why they hit him,” the officer wrote in the report. “Michael stated he remembered being at a bus station but he did not know where he was when he got hit. Michael stated he did not want to worry about finding out who hit him and he did not want to press charges.”
That might have been the end if it hadn’t been for two other phone calls to police later that evening, one from a Logan father who reportedly told police that his son had information about an assault that occurred earlier that day.
An officer met the family at Merlin Olsen Park, and as the sun went down, he heard from a teen girl who said Fife groped her on the bus, and from her brother who told police that he was upset and he felt like he needed to do something.
Throughout their interactions with police, multiple family members, including the girl herself, said she is dealing with anxiety and other fallout from traumatic abuse in her past, but they declined to share specifics, according to the police reports.
It was after the Merlin Park meeting with the two juveniles and their parents that a nurse from McKay Dee Hospital called police to let them know that Fife had been transported to the Ogden hospital with a fractured skull and a brain bleed.
According to the police report, Fife went into surgery to relieve pressure on his brain and he never regained consciousness.
One week after the initial incident, the juveniles were interviewed again, this time by a detective who, unbeknownst to them, had already reviewed video footage of the event.
The male said he was with his mom when he received a phone call from his sister saying she had been groped and harassed on a city bus after school. They picked her up from the transit center on 500 North and would have gone straight home, but the girl had forgotten her backpack from the bus.
According to the police report, the mother drove her teenagers to a bus stop near the Logan Recreational Center, where her daughter planned to retrieve her backpack from her friends. Incidentally, Fife had gotten off at the same bus stop and was walking south on 100 West when he was spotted by the siblings.
The young man told police that he jumped out of the car to confront the older man about touching his sister, yelling “hey” to Fife before pushing the man to the ground.
“He said that it ‘freaked him out that he (Fife) might get up so he ran away,” the police report states.
The detective took everything in, and then informed the juvenile that the incident had been captured on video.
“I asked him if he ran toward the male and pushed him down while on a run with his arms extended — he said ‘something like that,’” the police report states.
At the end of the interview, the juvenile was informed that Fife had passed away.
“He appeared to be surprised and saddened by that information,” the detective wrote.
This interview was followed up with another interview with the 16-year-old sister who reported she was groped on the city bus.
She told police that she was standing near the front of the bus when a drunken Fife got on the bus near the liquor store and singled her out, then “she said that she ‘felt a little squeeze and he put all of his weight on me,’” the detective wrote in the police report. She said she tried to push him off of her, but he was really heavy.
The detective wrote in his report that he asked her to confirm that Fife touched her inappropriately with both hands, and she said he had, so he told her about the video he had watched.
“I told her that I was concerned because the male never put his hands on her. His hands were in front of him, and it was his elbow that brushed against her as he walked past,” he stated in the report. “I told her … the part about him turning toward her and touching her did not happen.”
She reportedly responded with “Yeah, but he leaned on me,” then paused for several seconds before she told the detective “ yeah, I really thought that.”
“I asked her if she knows what she did — she didn’t know, so I explained that she pointed to the male and laughed, and leaned over as her friends laughed as well,” the detective wrote in the report.
He also noted his assurance to her that whatever happened in her past, the police department would be there to take her report if and when she was ready.
The courts do not release information about charges filed upon youths under the age of 16 or those who have not been charged with a felony-level offence, so there is no indication whether or not criminal charges were recommended for the girl. However, her brother has been charged in juvenile court with homicide by assault and is scheduled to appear in court on July 2.
The Herald Journal has decided not to report the boy’s name at this time because he is a juvenile.