CRIME

Video shows former Senate candidate being detained after trespassing at USPS office

May 1, 2024, 7:03 PM | Updated: May 2, 2024, 2:18 pm

Former Utah Senate Michael Cook stepping on federal property after being trespassed as an Salem pol...

Former Utah Senate Michael Cook stepping on federal property after being trespassed as an Salem police officer begins to detain him. (The Salem Police Department)

(The Salem Police Department)

SALEM, Utah County — Newly obtained body camera footage shows what led to the detainment of a former Utah Senate candidate, hoping to represent Utah County, who was gathering signatures for his race.

In Salem police body camera footage obtained by KSL TV, the responding officer approached Michael Cook outside the Salem United States Postal Service office on March 29 at 2:05 p.m.

In the video, Cook greets the officer, saying he is doing good but is “being blocked by the lieutenant governor because I am going after Mike McKell, who is the brother-in-law to (Utah Gov. Spencer) Cox. They are unconstitutionally blocking me at the ballot box.”

Cook told the officer that the lieutenant governor’s office would not certify his win at the state GOP convention, and he would have to gather signatures to be placed on the primary ballot.

The Salem police officer speaking to Cook about what the USPS guidelines are.

The Salem police officer speaking to Cook about what the USPS guidelines are. (The Salem Police Department)

Cook told the Salem Police Department officer that the USPS manager had asked him to leave the property because the office was federal property. Cook said he called police to resolve the issue.

In the video, the officer asked Cook if he needed another place to collect signatures since he wasn’t allowed to on the USPS property.

“No, I am going to do it right here,” Cook responded, pointing to the USPS office. “I am going to do it right there on the property.”

Cook referenced the difficulty he had gathering signatures for keeping the old state flag. He said that grocery stores would kick him out during that process due to company policy, and he didn’t have many places to gather signatures for his campaign.

“As far as I know, a federal building is public space? I am incorrect there?” Cook asked the officer.

“Owned by the federal government, right, but you can’t go sleep in there tonight or stay there,” the Salem PD officer responded.

The officer and Cook discussed whether Cook could be on USPS property while a Salem PD supervisor arrived at the scene. The officer then showed Cook a paper titled “Rule and Regulations Governing Conduct on Postal Service Property.”

The supervisor arrived and explained to Cook that if the USPS manager does not want him on the property, he is not allowed to be, even though it’s a federal building.

The supervisor said Cook could gather signatures on the sidewalk beside the USPS property but not on the parking lot or inside the building.

In the video, the officer and supervisor warned Cook that he could be cited or arrested if he entered the property again. Cook said he would stay on the sidewalk, and both parties left.

The Salem police supervisor explaining to Cook that he could be on the sidewalk, but not on the USPS property.

The Salem police supervisor explaining to Cook that he could be on the sidewalk, but not on the USPS property. (The Salem Police Department)

Detaining Cook

A few minutes later, the supervisor saw Cook on the grass between the sidewalk and the USPS office.

Cook told the supervisor that the sidewalk was on the grass and “he didn’t want to have to yell at these people.” He said he would not be leaving the grass.

The supervisor told Cook he would cite him as the Salem PD officer walked out of the USPS office.

The Salem police supervisor telling Cook he can be on the sidewalk but not the grass.

The Salem police supervisor tells Cook he can be on the sidewalk but not the grass. (Salem Police Department)

Before the officer could answer, Cook stepped into the parking lot, saying he could talk to the USPS manager himself. The officer and supervisor grabbed Cook, telling him he was being detained in handcuffs.

According to police, Cook pulled away from police and resisted them.

The Salem police officer and supervisor detaining Cook as he stepped on the USPS parking lot.

The Salem police officer and supervisor detaining Cook as he stepped into the USPS parking lot. (Salem Police Department)

Police removed Cook’s belongings from his pockets and placed him into a patrol car. The officer and supervisor muted their cameras as they took inventory of Cook’s belongings and talked to each other.

The officer returned to the USPS office and asked the manager if he would like to keep Cook trespassed permanently. The manager said he would like that to happen, and the officer returned to the patrol car where the supervisor and Cook were.

The officer explained to Cook that he was not allowed on the property and was being issued a citation. Cook said he understood and would stay on the sidewalk.

On April 12, Cook was indicted on one count of criminal trespassing and one count of interfering with an arresting officer, according to court documents.

The Salem police officer explaining to Cook about the citation and he was being trespassed.

The Salem police officer explaining to Cook about a citation he was being issued. (Salem Police Department)

Past controversies

In February, the state’s elections office chastised the Utah County Clerk for filling in Cook’s party affiliation on his candidate’s filing form after the filing deadline had passed.

KSL TV reported that Cook’s form had several errors, like filling in paperwork for being a representative instead of a senator, not providing his contact info, and not identifying as a Republican.

In April, Cook was officially disqualified from securing a spot on June’s primary ballot after failing to gather enough signatures.

Mike McKell, R—Spanish Fork, threatened to sue the Utah County Republican Party and the Utah County Clerk for breaking the rules to allow Cook to run.

McKell told KSL TV he was forced to spend money to gather signatures for his race when he shouldn’t have had to and would have been the party’s nominee if it hadn’t allowed Cook to run.

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Video shows former Senate candidate being detained after trespassing at USPS office