SALT LAKE CITY – A West Valley City police officer who fatally shot a shoplifting suspect earlier this year in a garage will not face criminal charges.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill did not say whether he believed the officer was justified in the shooting, but he cannot say for sure why he fired his weapon.
“Officer (Nicholaus) Green declined to be interviewed in connection with this incident, as is his Constitutional right. As such, it remains unclear what he was thinking or feeling, or even what he saw, when he discharged his service weapon,” Gill wrote in his final report.
Gill said if the case were to go to court the evidence would likely support Green’s actions.
Officers had chased 20-year-old Elijah Smith into a West Valley neighborhood on April 8. Wood ran to the garage of a home in the Jenelles Bay (2140 West) cul-de-sac.
Gill’s report said three officers entered the garage and yelled commands to “Put your hands up!” and “Make yourself known.”
All three officers were wearing body cameras. The footage showed Smith stand up with nothing in his hands. He appeared to reach into his pocket and started to pull out a modified screwdriver. Green then fired three rounds.
Gill met with Smith’s family about why he would not pursue criminal charges. He said Smith’s family questioned why Green did not have to give an explanation.
“I’m not going to deny anyone their Constitutional right. But it certainly does change the dynamics (of my investigation),” Gill said. “We have to continue to figure out how I can meet my obligation to try and make sense of (what happened and) a desire from our community to want have these answers.”
Gill said more and more officers are choosing to remain silent and invoking their Constitutional right to not incriminate themselves in recent months.
Paul Nelson contributed to this report.
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