SALT LAKE CITY– Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled the fatal police shooting of Marc Neal, 56, of Millcreek justified during a press conference Friday. Neal was shot by police officers in February after officers say they tried to de-escalate a hostile situation.
Details of the officer shooting
Back in February, Unified Police report responding to a domestic violence call between a man and his elderly mother in Millcreek, which later turned fatal.
When police arrived at the scene, they said Neal was armed with a handgun. Neal was standing in a “firing stance,” causing uneasiness among the officers, according to Gill.
Officers watched as Neal reportedly gripped the gun, claiming they “knew what was going to happen next,” Gill told reporters Friday.
The six officers involved said they tried for several minutes to de-escalate the situation, asking Neal to drop the firearm before they resulted in lethal force.
“It’s important to note that they [officers] were trying to use a less lethal method,” Gill said. One officer is heard asking “What can we do?” on the audio provided by the bodycam footage. Neal responded saying he was not going back to prison and for the officers to “do what you gotta do.”
Gill points to a specific incident during the altercation where Neal is shown cocking his gun after officers told him to put it down. Soon after, Unified Police fired a total of 19 shots.
Neal was pronounced dead at the scene, according to Gill.
Gill releases bodycam footage
During the Friday conference, Gill played audio and video coverage from the body cams of on-site officers. The footage shows officers commanded Neal to “drop the gun!” and to “put it down!” with the sound of gunfire following soon after.
Neal did not place his handgun on the ground during the encounter, according to Gill.
Shortly after, an officer is heard yelling, “Shots fired and one man down.”
Officers on the scene tended to Neal, discovering the gun he was holding was not real. However, Gill said, the gun looked authentic and was “made out of heavy metal.”
Because of comments made by Neal and the lifelike firearm in his hand, Gill ruled the shooting as justified — citing the evidence warranted the lethal force.
“It was not unreasonable for them to believe that the officers’ lives were in danger,” Gill said.
Mental health played a role in actions, Gill notes
Gill noted mental health issues played a role in Neal’s actions during the encounter — emphasizing the need that more needs to be done with law enforcement is called to handle these types of situations.
However, because of the situation — and comments being directed at officers — Gill argued the team had “every reason” to believe Neal was holding a real gun.
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