District Attorney Will Not Pursue Charges Against Officers In November 2018 Shooting
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office would not pursue criminal charges against Salt Lake City Police Department officers who shot at a man during a confrontation in 2018. That man, Cody Belgard, died from his injuries.
The November 9, 2018 incident began when police found a vehicle they had been tracking after it fled a previous traffic stop. They had since put a GPS tracker on the car. They believe another man had been driving the car during that incident.
When they found the car that night, they said a woman was in the driver’s seat and Cody Belgard was in the passenger seat. Officers said they ordered both of them out of the car, but that Belgard ignored the commands and “made furtive movements as though he had a gun in his waistband,” according to the district attorney’s report.
Officers said Belgard moved into the driver’s seat and pulled away, hitting a police vehicle and brushing against a detective. Officers followed the GPS signal to Sir Philip Drive, where they say they found Belgard outside the car. They said they ordered Belgard to get on the ground and show them his hands, but he refused.
“Mr. Belgard continued to stand upright, shifting his hands around in his waistband and pacing back and forth. Mr. Belgard gave officers no indication he was going to obey any of their orders,” Gill’s report reads.
Officers said Belgard “rapidly drew an object from his waistband and with a raised arm, pointed it at the officers”. The officers, who said they believed the object was a gun, fired at Belgard. Belgard was hit twice in the upper back and died of his injuries. The object he had raised was a cell phone.
Gill said his office would not pursue criminal charges. The report says he concluded the five officers who fired their weapons “could likely establish at trial that they believed the ‘use of deadly force [wa]s necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.'”
“I have to determine — is it unreasonable for them to perceive that object in his hand as a threat to them and they’re reacting to that threat? That’s what I would have to prove in order to say that this was not justified,” Gill said at a news conference Friday.
He said the context of everything that had happened before the shooting could reasonably lead the officers to think Belgard was armed.
“The officers’ perceptions, even though they ultimately were shown to be incorrect, were nevertheless based on objective, empirical facts that are not unreasonable, given everything we know about the events,” Gill said.
Belgard’s older brother, Marvin Oliveros, said Belgard’s family believes officers acted improperly.
“All they have to do is have a cop say, ‘He has a gun’ to justify all cops on the scene firing,” Oliveros said.
Oliveros was joined by members of Utah Against Police Brutality outside the district attorney’s office Friday. As the group shouted “Justice for Cody”, Oliveros said he wanted more oversight of law enforcement.
“We have a civilian review board that has no teeth. Even when they rule something unjustified, it’s irrelevant to people like Sim Gill, the mayor, all these people that have teeth to do something about it,” he said.
Belgard’s autopsy showed he was shot twice in the upper back. Gill said the officers fired nine shots and that the two that hit Belgard may have come after Belgard turned away to shield himself from the bullets. He also noted that officers were located at different angles to Belgard.
Oliveros, though, said the location of the shots shows that Belgard was trying to get on the ground.
“What that shows is he was complying. He was getting on the ground. They talk about movements. There was a movement to get on the ground. You have to move to get on the ground,” Oliveros said.
Oliveros said the family wants the FBI to investigate the shooting. Gill said he was willing to share any evidence his office has.
“As a public servant, if that is what you want me to do, I am more than happy to reach out to the FBI and say to them, ‘The family has requested this, and here’s, we will share whatever we have’ I have nothing to hide. We are very open about sharing every information and we stand by our conclusion,” Gill said.