Salt Lake County DA Gives Mixed Ruling In Fatal Police Shooting

Mar 12, 2021, 7:26 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Two officers with the West Valley City Police Department who fired their guns last summer while chasing after a suspect received different rulings Friday from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill about whether their use of deadly force was justified.

The fatal shooting happened Aug. 27, 2020, near 1000 South and Main Street in Salt Lake City as officers with the U.S. Marshals’ Violent Fugitive Apprehension Team tried to arrest 38-year-old Damien Evans.

Evans, of West Valley City, had an arrest warrant issued against him for two parole violations, according to the district attorney’s report. When officers approached, Evans took off running while holding a gun in his hand, Gill said.

Piecing together what happened next was difficult, Gill said since the officers weren’t wearing body cameras and the two officers who fired their guns didn’t answer investigators’ questions.

Helicopter video helped District Attorney Sim Gill make his determination. (KSL TV)

“Policies of the United States Department of Justice, of which the Marshal Service is a part, forbid officers from wearing body-worn cameras during operations, even when law enforcement officers are employed by other agencies and working in the task force,” Gill wrote in his report.

As Evans ran through a parking lot, West Valley City Sgt. Jason Vincent fired his gun and missed Evans, according to Gill.

“We’re ruling Sgt. Vincent’s shooting to be unjustified,” Gill said during a press conference on Friday in which he released his findings.

Gill said he is leaving the matter of criminal charges open for Vincent until more information can be gathered.

“We don’t know why Sgt. Vincent apparently decided to shoot his gun during the incident, and there are not enough facts at present from which reasonable inferences can support a conclusion that Sgt. Vincent reasonably believed he needed to use deadly force,” the report said.

Gill came to a different conclusion about Officer Clinton Moore, who was found justified in firing the fatal shots in an alley as Evans climbed a fence. Gill said multiple officers told investigators that they saw Evans reach for his gun.

“We can reasonably infer that, when Officer Moore saw Mr. Evans pull the gun out of his picket, he believed he needed to use deadly force against Mr. Evans to prevent Mr. Evans from using the gun to shoot him or the other officers in the area,” the report said.

The report also notes that for a time after the shooting, Vincent’s handgun was not in his possession. On the way back to the sheriff’s office, he and another officer stopped at a Maverik gas station where he sat on a curb and the gun slipped out of the holster.

Once he got to the sheriff’s office Vincent noticed the gun was missing and returned to the gas station about an hour later where he found the gun in the same place he had been sitting. The firearm did not appear to be tampered with, the report stated.

In a statement, West Valley City said it was aware of the district attorney’s determination.

“We are currently reviewing the decision of the District Attorney’s Office,” the statement said. “We are also in the process of an internal review of this incident. We look forward to completing this process in the near future.”

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Salt Lake County DA Gives Mixed Ruling In Fatal Police Shooting