Utah Family Sues Unified Police In Shooting Death Rule ‘Unjustified’
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The family of Bryan Pena Valencia said it intended to send a message to the Unified Police Department by filing a $2.5 million lawsuit after he was shot and killed by officers in what has been ruled an unjustified shooting.
“I feel like there’s no accountability,” said Valencia’s cousin, Mario Herrera. “No one is being accountable right now.”
The Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake and the two officers involved, Omar Flores and Shane Scrivner, were named in the suit.
“We want answers as a family. We’re frustrated,” said Herrera’s wife, Brittany Herrera.
"We want accountability… I'm not saying police officers are bad, I'm saying the lack of training- is what's missing here." Bryan Pena Valencia's family files $2.5M lawsuit against Unified Police. DA's office ruled officer's use of deadly force unjustified. Update now @KSL5TV pic.twitter.com/9O8Hig9xfQ
— Garna Mejia KSL (@GarnaMejiaKSL) May 6, 2021
Last March, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled the 2020 shooting death of Pena Valencia was unjustified. Officer Flores shot Pena Valencia a total of six times, according to the medical examiner.
“We believe that officers are not bad people. They are not here to hurt anybody. We all know that,” Mario Herrera said. “In this case, we feel that the lack of training is a factor here.”
In his findings, Gill wrote, “Nothing in the facts of this case indicate a criminal intent by Officer Flores. His mental state involved a mistake resulting from unsupported inferences, but a mistake, nonetheless.”
“There was no basis at all to use deadly force,” said the family’s attorney, Bob Sykes.
Pena Valencia was shot after a car chase, which was followed by a brief foot chase. Investigators did not find a gun.
Officer Flores reportedly stated that he felt threatened and fearful, but attorneys argued that Flores and Scrivner created a chaotic situation.
“The officers were both yelling conflicting commands over each other and yelling at each other at the scene. And Bryan was asking the officers to calm down with his hands in the air when they shot him,” said another family attorney, Peter Sorenson.
There appeared to be no body camera footage of the shooting, as Flores lost his while jumping a fence. Scrivner did not have one assigned to him. It’s something family members want to be changed.
“Yes, 100 percent,” Mario Herrera said.
Pena-Valencia had a young son and his family hoped the lawsuit gives him closure.
“He’s scared every night, he’s scared of police officers, he’s scared of law enforcement and we know that’s wrong. That’s the wrong mindset,” Mario Herrera said.
Officials with Unified Police said they could not comment on the lawsuit while their own internal investigation continues. Officer Flores has been reinstated back to full duty.
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