Salt Lake City police defend not arresting Ahn Pham after initial hit and run case

Mar 29, 2024, 5:24 PM | Updated: 7:14 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake Police Department is defending itself in the case of the man accused of a string of hit-and-runs in the city and questions about why Ahn Pham wasn’t arrested after the initial hit-and-run last August.

A department spokesman told KSL TV that the case was investigated as an aggravated assault. But, it was determined that there wasn’t enough probable cause to arrest Pham, despite having a license plate number, a victim, and two witness accounts of what happened.

“It’s not fair to say that we failed to do anything,” said Brent Weisberg, spokesman for the Salt Lake City Police Department. “Our officers, our detectives aggressively investigated this case back then, and we were continuing to work on this case. There are a lot of situations involved in this particular case that ultimately did not result in an immediate identification of the suspect nor result in charges. That’s not an indication of failure by any means by our police department.”

Sugar House hit and run victims speak out

Pham is accused of hitting five more people after this case from August. This initial one happened at 1000 West and 500 South.

KSL went seeking answers after the probable cause statement said that the victim, Samantha Mathews, told police that Pham allegedly tried to lure her into his car. When she refused, Mathews told police that the car sped up and hit her.

“Every single case, before we submit it, there are very certain strict legal requirements for us to make sure that we are achieving before we can submit a case to the district attorney’s office — before we can arrest somebody,” he said.

The locations of four hit-and-run incidents police say were all done by the same person.

Salt Lake Spokesman Brent Weisberg said that after the accident, they put out “an attempt to locate” call to every other police agency in Salt Lake County for Pham, they also had his license plate.

Weisberg said that no information ever came back from the attempt to locate. However, Weisberg couldn’t say if detectives ever went looking for Pham.

Detectives worked on the case for 2 months and eventually closed the case in October 2023, Weisberg said.

Sandy police seeking help in locating vehicle involved in a hit-and-run

“We want to make sure that every time we submit a case to the district attorney’s office, the investigation is complete. We’re not going to submit an incomplete investigation that doesn’t do anyone any justice. And so in the interest of justice, our detectives did close out the case pending additional follow-up,” he said.

Weisberg added that they had no other indication at the time that there were any other crashes tied to Pham.

“Our detectives with our Robbery and Violent Crime Squad were working to contact witnesses to work with the victim who was hit…But we wanted to make sure that we were doing everything we could to investigate this case properly,” he said.

Woman injured in SLC hit-and-run crash; police say driver ran red light

Weisberg also said that once authorities started to connect the cases to Pham, they had a “break in the case,” in March.

He said that from January of this year they then went back and looked at every unsolved hit and run case.

As for why a public alert wasn’t set out after the initial case, Weisberg said they “didn’t want to create a greater public alarm than necessary.”

“When there is known public safety risk, and there is articulable information that can and should be provided to the public, we will absolutely act accordingly to help ensure public safety,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pham was in court again today. A judge set his detention hearing for May 9.

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Salt Lake City police defend not arresting Ahn Pham after initial hit and run case