District Attorney Finds Midvale Officer-Involved Shooting Legally Justified

Apr 9, 2021, 10:25 PM | Updated: 10:59 pm

MIDVALE, UtahNew developments were reached in the police shooting that left a man dead in Midvale last September.

Officers said the 22-year-old man pointed a gun at them, and they believed he had opened fire.

On Friday, the Salt Lake County District Attorney said the man never fired a shot, but still ruled the shooting — legally justified.

One member of the man’s family was definitely not happy with the findings. He said he saw it differently, even though the DA used body camera to explain the ruling that backed the officers’ actions.

It was a scene that played out in broad daylight in the middle of a busy road.

Unified and West Valley Police were after 24-year-old Joseph Schultz, a wanted fugitive considered armed and dangerous, and Matthew Knowlden, 22, was with him.

When the chase ended, detectives said they arrested Schultz and two others, but Knowlden fled. He also had a gun.

“Officer Nelson stated that Mr. Knowlden raised the gun and pointed it north in the direction of where other officers would be arriving,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

Body camera footage from a West Valley City detective showed one perspective of the chain of events that followed.

“There’s other officers that said that they see him sort of doing this motion, like he’s trying to squeeze the trigger,” said Gill. “Officer Nelson fired 17 shots, Detective Belcher fired 7, and Detective Winslow fired 7.”

The District Attorney’s investigation found at least one officer believed Knowlden shot at her, which was impossible because the safety was on and there was no round in the chamber.

Still, the DA ruled the shooting legally justified, noting there was reasonable and legitimate concern for officer safety.

“That’s 5 wounds, but yet, there was 31 shots fired,” said Knowlden’s biological father, Isaac Lopez. “To me, that’s a little excessive.”

Lopez still disputes the findings.

“To me, it looks like Matthew’s elbows are bent, not straight,” said Lopez.

He questioned if long before the deadly shooting, the officers should have stopped the car immediately when they approached it, or if they should have called off the pursuit, given the time of day and populated area.

“Like that’s just, that’s ridiculous,” said Isaac Lopez. 

The father said he wants to push for changes in officer training as well as legislative reform. He also said he’s looking at a possible civil lawsuit.

The DA said the lone source of body camera footage he had independently corroborated the officers’ perspectives in this case.

Gill acknowledged cameras don’t always show the whole picture, but he said they’re worth it.

“I still believe in the utility and value of body cameras because they help me put together a narrative of evidence factually,” he said.

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District Attorney Finds Midvale Officer-Involved Shooting Legally Justified