Family, Friends Remember BYU Student Killed In Crash Involving Sheriff Deputy

Mar 19, 2021, 7:05 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2021, 4:15 pm

PROVO, Utah – Friends and family gathered to remember 22-year-old Joseph Spencer, a BYU student who died in a crash involving a truck that was being driven by a Utah County sheriff’s deputy who was responding to a SWAT call in his personal vehicle.

Friend Alex Atkinson said she was looking forward to a trip this weekend with Spencer. “We were supposed to go to St. George together, kind of like our own little spring break,” Atkinson said.

She was still in shock. “I really couldn’t believe it. Joseph was really shy but when he opened up, he was the funniest person. He was always trying to make people laugh and uplift others,” she said.

Atkinson and her friends built a small memorial for Spencer at the same location where the crash happened. Spencer was pulling out of a Taco Bell Tuesday afternoon when the truck smashed into his driver’s side door.

Spencer’s father said, “All that I knew was that it was a big black truck because of the photo online and then the comment that somebody posted online, that they saw the driver get out and attempt to do first aid.”

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the driver was a deputy and member of the Utah County Metro SWAT team. He was driving his personal vehicle to a stand-off in Pleasant Grove.

“Yesterday, when we found out, a lot of us were really angry,” Atkinson said. “And we understand it’s really hard — I can’t imagine being that person and knowing they had taken someone’s life.”

The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave. Three separate investigations are underway to determine if the deputy was at fault.

Provo police are investigating the crash itself and whether speeding and/or rain played a role.

The Utah County Officer Involved Critical Incident team is looking at the deputy’s involvement since he was technically on-duty.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office is running their own internal investigation. Department spokesman Sgt. Spencer Cannon can’t speak to this case specifically, but said it is common for off-duty deputies to drive their personal vehicles to emergency situations.

“If someone is driving their personal vehicle in an off-duty capacity or an on-duty capacity, but they’re in their personal vehicle, they are obligated to obey traffic laws just like anyone else is,” Cannon said.

Spencer’s mother, Marni Spencer said, “Of course, I’m heartbroken, I’m devastated.”

She’s a cancer patient and she said her son was smart, kind and witty.

“I guess it helps to make a little bit more sense, but it’s still kind of awful,” said Wes Spencer, Joseph’s father.

But for now, Joseph’s family is focusing on their memories and stories of his mission in San Diego.

“He must have gained like 20 pounds on his mission because everybody fed him and he loved the food,” said Wes.

BYU released a statement Friday afternoon, addressing Joseph’s passing:

“We were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Joseph Spencer, a BYU student who was involved in a car accident earlier this week near campus.

Our hearts go out to the Spencer family and our thoughts are with all of those impacted by this tragedy.”

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Family, Friends Remember BYU Student Killed In Crash Involving Sheriff Deputy