A Salt Lake City police officer responding to a fight outside a downtown bar was surprised when one of the individuals involved, Jason Nicholes, identified himself as a captain with the Utah Department of Corrections. Perhaps even more surprising was that Nicholes allegedly had told witnesses to leave the scene and even attempted to start a fight with the police officer.
An incident report released today provides some insight into a fight that occurred outside the Hotel Bar and Nightclub, 155 W. 200 South, on Sept. 17. City Weekly recently obtained portions of a police report about the incident because it’s still part of an ongoing investigation. According to the report, K-9 Officer Cale Lennberg responded to a chaotic scene on the street outside the bar and spotted Nicholes wrestling with an unidentified individual, holding the man in a chokehold from behind. “Four to five other males, some covered with blood,” were also involved in the fight, according to the report. Two witnesses reported seeing one individual get “knocked to the ground” by Nicholes, though the specifics of how the fight started aren’t apparent from the report.
It wasn’t until after Lennberg told the men to stop that he noticed a badge hanging around Nicholes’ neck. Nicholes worked as security for the bar but, according to the officer’s report, was not identified clearly as either bar security or law enforcement. According to the report, two witnesses at the scene “both explained that they had no idea that Nicholes was a peace officer” because he was wearing a T-shirt, jeans and his badge was hung from a “chain inside his jacket.”
The incident became more chaotic, according to the report, as the SLCPD officer attempted to keep witnesses at the scene while “Nicholes was yelling for everyone to ‘Go home’ and to ‘Get out of here.’” Lennberg reported that several witnesses left the scene as a result of Nicholes’ shouting. The officer wrote that Nicholes later denied telling witnesses to leave and thereby obstructing the investigation, and that Nicholes also said that his work arrangement with the Hotel required him to dress down so as not to “discourage” people from coming to the bar.
After the scene had been secured and more police officers arrived, Officer Lennberg was asked by other officers what had happened to the witnesses who had left. Lennberg told the responding officers, “‘That Jackwagon sent everyone away,’ referring to Nicholes. This apparently angered Nicholes,” the officer wrote, adding that Nicholes threatened the officer and even “pulled off his jacket and said something to the effect of ‘let’s do this.’”
Despite the threat, the report makes no indication that Nicholes instigated a physical altercation with Lenberg.
Sgt. Shawn Josephson says that the SLCPD is still investigating the incident to see if the department will file charges against Nicholes for obstructing a police investigation. As of the time of this post, a comment had not been returned from Nicholes or the Utah Department of Corrections about the incident. This post will be updated if comment is returned from Corrections or Nicholes.