Mother Of Man Killed In West Valley City Officer-Involved Shooting Speaks Out
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah – The mother of the 31-year-old man who was killed August 22 in an officer-involved critical incident at West Valley City Hall said her son wanted to overcome an addiction she fears may have cost him his life.
She also hoped to shed light on the good her son did by speaking out publicly for the first time.
“He was just good and kind-hearted,” said Chad Breinholt’s mother Susan, who asked us not to share her last name for privacy purposes. “He wanted to be a good person.”
In an exclusive interview from her home in Illinois, Susan shared details about Breinholt’s life including his love of music, helping others and being an active member of the congregation at Life Point Church.
“I would spend hours on the phone with him just talking about faith or his day or his music,” Susan said. “He could tell a story and he could make me laugh without even trying. I’ll miss that most about him.”
According to Susan, Breinholt began drinking alcohol shortly after his father died. Alcoholism eventually grew to marijuana use, she said.
“(Breinholt) was about 15,” Susan said. “His father passed away and you know he was grieving in different ways that people grieve.”
Breinholt spent several years in and out of rehabilitation programs, and Susan said there were long periods of time where he was successful in his fight to remain sober.
“Every time he had a relapse since he was 17, he always sought treatment,” she said. “He always tried to get help.”
Breinholt spoke with KSL about his struggle with substance abuse in March of 2006, shortly after graduating from a rehabilitation program at Odyssey House.
“I thought it will not happen to me, and it did,” he said. “It happened to me and it happens to most people that I know. It’s a fast spiral, it’s a slippery slope.”
For the last two years, Susan said Breinholt’s life was on the right path. He was sober, active in his church and had gone back to school.
“It’s an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs, it’s heartbreaking,” Susan said. “You just don’t know when you might get a phone call.”
Susan said Breinholt planned on using his musical abilities to become a music therapist.
“He wanted to serve and become a music therapist and help those that needed help,” Susan said.
However, Susan said Breinholt had relapsed in recent months.
“I had spoken to Chad the day before, Friday – hours before it happened – and he talked about how he was looking into clinics and trying to get treatments,” Susan said. “He was seeking treatment the day of the incident.”
Susan said she isn’t ready to watch the police body camera video released by West Valley Police officials on Friday of the altercation between officers and Breinholt.
The video showed Breinholt handcuffed behind his back, sitting in a chair in the DUI processing room in the basement of West Valley City Hall. Breinholt managed to slip off his shoe and then told officers, “there’s a gun in my shoe.”
An officer asked for his shoe and when Breinholt refused, officers took it by force and the struggle quickly escalated.
During Friday’s press conference, West Valley City Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said the video showed Breinholt getting a firm grip on one of the officer’s guns from his holster. You could hear the officer say, “he’s got a gun! He’s got a gun!” and then, “let go! Let go!”
Another officer pulled out his gun and fired a single, fatal shot.
“I have to reserve my judgment,” Jacobs said. “This is just one piece of evidence. Procedurally, if anyone tries to disarm an officer in an aggressive manner, we view that as a deadly threat.”
Susan said she hasn’t seen the video, but she is aware of its contents and has been informed of how police said the struggle unfolded.
“I was given the details of the video and what it brings is more questions because I don’t know understand how they weren’t able to…. subdue him,” Susan said. “I have struggled to make sense of it ever since.”
Susan said Breinholt will be missed by his large and loving family, including his brother. She hoped he will be remembered not for how his life ended, but for his desire to be a good influence in the lives of others.
“He did have such resilience and such a strong will to do good and be good,” Susan said. “He wanted to give back to all those counselors that inspired him through this difficult journey and path that he was on.”
Susan said she is waiting for the entire investigation to run its course before she speaks more openly.
The investigation into his death is being handled by the Salt Lake City Police Department.
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