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One officer’s use of deadly force ruled unjustified, but the fatal shot by 2nd officer is justified, says Salt Lake County DA

Sim Gill

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill, is leaving the door open for criminal charges against one officer, ruled unjustified for firing his weapon during a fatal shooting on Aug. 27, 2020. However, Gill says a West Valley police officer, who fired the fatal shot, was justified in the use of deadly force. 

“The facts gathered by the protocol investigation as currently known do not satisfy the elements of a justified use of deadly force,” said Gill Friday referring to Sgt. Jason Vincent’s action to pull the trigger. 

One officer justified, one unjustified

“We cannot conclude that Sgt. Vincent’s use of deadly force was justified-the facts known and available to us do not support a reasonable inference that Sgt. Vincent reasonably believed he needed to use deadly force against Mr. Evans,” said Gill, pointing out Sgt. Vincent refused to explain why he felt the need to fire his weapon was necessary. 

 

The Background

Gill says Evans was paroled in the summer of 2020 after being convicted of attempted theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a forged writing device.  In August, the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole issued an arrest warrant for Evans, claiming he failed to go through a proper substance abuse check and for running away from parole supervision.

West Valley Police reportedly reached out to the US Marshal’s Office to get help in tracking and arresting Evans, who they believed was armed and dangerous.  Evans had reportedly made statements that he wouldn’t go back to prison and would rather “shoot it out” with police.

On August 27th, the US Marshal’s Violent Fugitive Apprehension Team, or VFAST, spotted Evans by the Palmer Court Apartments in Salt Lake City and planned to use K9 support if Evans ran away, which he did.

The deadly force, which was deemed as justified

Evans was seen on DPS chopper video running away from the apartments through a nearby parking lot.  At one point, Evans had a gun in his right hand, but Gill says Evans put the pistol in his pocket and continued running.  While fleeing, Evans can be seen pointing his left hand at an officer’s vehicle, and some officers believed Evans pointed his weapon, although they later determined that wasn’t accurate.

(Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill showing reporters DPS chopper footage of the shooting. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Gill says, “Mister Evans is running through the parking lot, and he is not pointing his weapon at anybody.”

However, Evans attempted to climb a fence, which is when a K9 officer attached to Evans, preventing him from leaving.  Gill says several officers saw Evans reach for the pistol in his pocket, which is when West Valley Officer Clinton Moore fired his weapon.  Evans was hit six times and died at the scene.  Gill determined a jury would find reasonable evidence to believe Moore feared for his life, so he won’t be filing any criminal charges.

The non-deadly force, which was deemed as unjustified

The unjustified force happened immediately before Moore opened fire.  At first, pursuing officers believed Evans fired his gun, however, Gill says the evidence shows Evans that didn’t happen since there were no bullets in the chamber.

“If he had in fact fired the weapon, it would have automatically cycled a bullet into the slide,” Gill says.  “You cannot fire that GLOCK and actually get a round off without the next bullet going into that slide.”

It was later determined the shot came from West Valley Police Sergeant Jason Vincent, however, Gill says he can’t see any justifiable reason why the officer would fire.  He also says Vincent gave them no context as to why he did.

“In a statement, Sgt. Vincent said that he fired one shot at Mr. Evans while Vincent ran through the parking lot in pursuit of Mr. Evans.  He did not elaborate or offer any other information,” according to Gill.

(A picture of Evans’ weapon, which Gill says proves Evans never fired. Credit: Paul Nelson)

Since Vincent missed, Gill says there isn’t enough evidence to file criminal charges against Vincent, yet.  Unlawful discharge laws are specifically written to not apply to police officers, who are required to fire their weapons in urban settings from time to time.

After the shooting and before officers held their debriefing about it, Vincent reportedly misplaced his gun near a Maverik convenience store.  Gill says the officers went back to the store when Vincent realized he didn’t have it, and the gun was found by the sidewalk.

A call for strict policies on body cameras

Gill says every police agency that has body cameras should be using them.  He says without the DPS chopper camera and videos from civilians taken nearby, they wouldn’t have a full context of what actually happened.

“There are conflicts within the testimonies that we got that we would not be able to contradict or correct,” Gill says.