COURTS & LEGAL

‘He wasn’t intending to hurt anybody’: Brighton homeowner attorney says snowboarder confrontation was a misunderstanding

Mar 28, 2024, 6:47 PM | Updated: Mar 29, 2024, 7:09 am

BRIGHTON — The Brighton man seen having a confrontation with a snowboarder in a viral video dating back to February is now facing criminal charges.

Keith Stebbings, 67, was charged with aggravated assault, a third-degree felony, and making a threat of violence, a class B misdemeanor, following his encounter with snowboarder Loren Richardson.

Richardson recorded and posted a cell phone video of the incident on social media.

According to charging documents, on Feb. 24, Richardson said he had mistakenly crossed the property line and was confronted by Stebbings in his driveway.

The documents said Stebbings pointed the shotgun directly at Richardson and pushed him several times.

 

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Steve Burton, who was hired as Stebbings’ attorney after interviewing with KSL for a report on this case in his role as Utah Defense Attorney Association director, said he and his client were surprised by the charges.

“An aggravated assault requires a threat with a show of force with a deadly weapon, and so it’s a step above showing or brandishing a gun during a fight or a quarrel,” Burton said. “I think what this case comes down to is they’re taking the other person’s word for it, that the gun was pointed at him.”

Richardson posted a longer version of the original video. At one point, he slows down the video and writes in an on-screen caption, “I freeze-framed so you can see when he points the rifle at me.”

He said he did not see any trespassing signs before entering the property, but Burton insisted there were several posted.

The charging documents state officers could not find any private property signs in the area of the resort where Richardson entered Stebbings’ property.

“We’re hoping that we can finally get to the prosecutor the evidence showing that there are signs posted all around his property, warning people that this is private property and that they’re not allowed to go there, and hopefully show them that he tried to handle it the right way, but it didn’t work, and that even though he handled this wrong, he has now tried to do it the right way by contacting police,” Burton said.

Expert breaks down how far someone can legally go to protect their Utah property

Burton said Stebbings purchased his property years before the ski resorts in the area became as popular as they are today.

“He said that the problem really started about five years ago when more and more people purchased the really popular ski passes and started using that Great Western lift,” Burton said.

He said his client told him several skiers and snowboarders had ignored his signs and warnings to stay off the property over the years. He said Stebbings has complained and reached out to Brighton Ski Resort to ask for assistance with the issues.

“People will drop onto his front porch where he can see them as he’s eating lunch or dinner and go through his property as if he wasn’t there,” Burton said.

Signs posted to mark what is said to be private property near Brighton Ski Resort in 2024. (Courtesy: Steve Burton)

He also said homeowners there have to snow plow almost daily to maintain their properties and if people come through the area, it can be a nuisance. Richardson told KSL TV he was finishing up his last run of the day, and decided to take a run that he thought led to the neighborhood his Airbnb was in.

When he had nearly reached the bottom, Stebbings was there, holding a shotgun.

“The ski resort hadn’t done anything about it, the signs weren’t working, and finally, this day was the day where he didn’t know what else to do,” Burton said.

In the video, Stebbings can be heard asking Richardson, “Are you with that guy?”

“He believed that they were the same people who had been doing it repeatedly, and so in his mind, he needed to let them know that he was serious and that they shouldn’t do it again,” Burton said.

Richardson is seen reaching down for his bindings.

“I was no threat and I was apologetic, hands in the air,” he said. “I stopped.”

The charging documents said Stebbings then told Richardson, “If you do it again, there will be holes in you.”

“He does have the right to protect his property, but if there’s a danger, if I’m causing a threat,” Richardson said.

Burton said his client could’ve handled the situation differently, but said his statement to Richardson was a conditional warning, and he believes it’s legal.

“He was warning them if this happened again, then there could be a problem,” Burton said. “Under Utah law, it’s not a threat unless it’s an immediate threat where the person reasonably believes that they’re going to be injured.”

Days after the incident, Richardson told KSL TV he was scared for his life.

“He points the gun right at me, and I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m going to get shot,'” he said.

Snowboarder confronted by property owner with gun near Brighton Ski Resort

Burton said Stebbings’ gun wasn’t loaded and he was using it as a prop.

“He felt like he had to show that he was serious and go out there and hold his gun to protect his property,” he said. “He wasn’t intending to hurt anybody.”

Burton said they’re hopeful the case can be dismissed. He also wants more help from the ski resort and its leaders to solve this problem.

“Our hope is that we can reach a resolution where the case will be either dismissed or he will have to admit to handling it inappropriately, maybe acting disorderly, but really that more people and institutions need to get involved to solve the problem long-term,” Burton said.

Richardson did not respond to KSL TV’s request for comment on this update.

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‘He wasn’t intending to hurt anybody’: Brighton homeowner attorney says snowboarder confrontation was a misunderstanding