Holladay shooting justified, but prosecutor still “troubled”

May 20, 2021, 3:00 PM
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill speaking to media on May 20, 2021. (PHOTO: Kristin Murp...
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill speaking to media on May 20, 2021. (PHOTO: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)
(PHOTO: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A police shooting in Holladay that killed an armed, suicidal man has been ruled justified by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, but he also wrote in his report that the outcome leaves him “troubled.”

The shooting took place Aug. 8, 2020. Members of the Unified Police Department initially responded to reports of a suicidal man, Gill said.

The Holladay shooting, deconstructed

According to Gill, the first call for help came from the wife of Matt Hilbelink, 39. She called 911 after receiving a text from Hilbelink, showing her a photo of the gun he said he’d just bought. In the text message, he indicated he planned to take his own life. 

Hilbelink’s wife used an app to track his phone, then relayed the information to dispatchers. Police found him sitting on the ground at a parking lot at 6510 S. Millrock Drive, holding a gun.

According to Gill’s final report, three officers established a position behind a police truck and worked for 24 minutes to try to get him to drop the weapon. 

“Instead, he kept the weapon in his right hand, often with his finger on the trigger, throughout the incident,” the report said. 

“Thousand-yard stare”

The report says Hilbelink continued to switch from pointing his gun at police, to putting the gun’s muzzle in his mouth, then placing it back in his lap. According to the report, the turning point came when the officers noted a changing expression on Hilbelink’s face: a “thousand-yard stare.” 

He raised the gun and pointed it at one of the officers again. In a written statement provided to the district attorney’s office conducting the investigation, Officer Dave Jaroscak said it appeared Hilbelink was aiming directly at another officer, whose upper body, face and head were exposed. 

“I believed that Hilbelink was about to shoot (him) if immediate action wasn’t taken,” Jaroscak wrote. 

On body camera video, Jaroscak’s voice relayed that concern. 

“It looks like he’s getting ready to pop one off,” Jaroscak said. “He’s gonna kill one of us first.” 

Jaroscak fired one round, killing Hilbelink. 

Holladay shooting justified, but “troubled” outcome

The report ruled the Holladay shooting justified, but according to Gill, also troubled. 

“At the end of the day, when we’re troubled with the outcome in which a suicidal man with a gun is shot and killed by police, we have to ask, ‘Could this have ended differently?'” Gill wrote in the report. 

A sergeant who responded to the call that day said in spite of efforts to communicate with Hilbelink, he never responded to police. 

“We’re making communication with him, constantly talking to him, trying to get him to talk to us. He won’t talk,” the sergeant told investigators, describing Hilbelink as “fidgeting with his gun.” 

They talked to him about hiking, based off information from dispatchers that he liked to hike. He did not respond. 

“He just wouldn’t take it. And he just kept looking at us like he was … kind of that zombie kind of look. There was no one home, it seemed like. Like a man totally lost,” a second sergeant said. 

Asking “the hard questions”

The report said officers considered using a less-lethal round in their exchange with Hilbelink, but worried he would shoot regardless of whether they used lethal force or not. 

After Jaroscak fired, police checked Hilbelink’s gun. They found it loaded, with a round in the chamber. 

Gill said he called the shooting troubling to help improve police response and start a conversation. 

“We take the time to reflect and invite discussion about how the police responded to the incident and why they did what they did, because having reviewed scores of police shootings resulting in the deaths of members of the community, we believe everyone … will be better for having asked the hard questions,” he said.

Today’s Top Stories


A fire in Richfield Monday night destroyed a motel, officials say. Photo credit: Keaton Anderson...
Mark Jones

Breaking: Richfield motel destroyed by fire

RICHFIELD, Utah — A motel in Richfield was destroyed by a fire Monday night, according to the city’s mayor. According to fire officials in Richfield, all individuals staying at the Ville 647 motel have been accounted for. They say some injuries have been reported, but no fatalities. The extent of those injuries are not immediately […]
3 months ago
A car crashed into an Apple store in Hingham on Monday. Photo credit: WBZ....
Amir Vera, Michelle Watson and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

1 dead, at least 19 injured after car drives through Massachusetts Apple store

Authorities in Massachusetts say one person was killed nearly 20 others were injured Monday after a vehicle drove through an Apple store.
3 months ago
Rioters at the US Capitol...
Curt Gresseth

Utah bill would limit police access to your cellphone data

A spokesman for a a libertarian think tank in Utah discusses why he supports a bill at the Legislature limiting law enforcement access to the cellphone of a person near a crime scene.
3 months ago
COLORADO SPRINGS, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 20: People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near the Club...

Mass shooting at a Colorado Springs LGBTQ club leaves 5 dead and destroys a coveted sense of safety

The shooting an at LGBTQ+ club in Colorado Springs destroyed a building sense of safety in communities around the world.
3 months ago
Sandy police car pictured, theyre investigating a shooting...
Elizabeth Weiler

Street racer ends up in handcuffs

Police estimated the two street racers to be traveling around 70 mph, over 30 mph of the speed limit in the given area.
3 months ago
A west valley police car is pictured. Police are investigating a hit and run...
Devin Oldroyd

Suspect identified in West Valley hit and run

West Valley police officers responded to a fatal hit-and-run Monday evening. Police have now named Jose Julian Marin Flores, 21, as the lead suspect.
3 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Happy joyful smiling casual satisfied woman learning and communicates in sign language online using...

The best tools for Deaf and hard-of-hearing workplace success

Here are some of the best resources to make your workplace work better for Deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Team supporters celebrating at a tailgate party...

8 Delicious Tailgate Foods That Require Zero Prep Work

In a hurry? These 8 tailgate foods take zero prep work, so you can fuel up and get back to what matters most: getting hyped for your favorite
christmas decorations candles in glass jars with fir on a old wooden table...
Western Nut Company

12 Mason Jar Gift Ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas [with recipes!]

There are so many clever mason jar gift ideas to give something thoughtful to your neighbors or friends. Read our 12 ideas to make your own!
wide shot of Bear Lake with a person on a stand up paddle board...

Pack your bags! Extended stays at Bear Lake await you

Work from here! Read our tips to prepare for your extended stay, whether at Bear Lake or somewhere else nearby.
young boy with hearing aid...

Accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing

These different types of accommodations for students who are deaf and hard of hearing can help them succeed in school.
Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
Holladay shooting justified, but prosecutor still “troubled”