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Utah County deputy charged in connection with 2021 crash that killed BYU student

Mar 7, 2022, 5:39 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 4:43 pm

Joseph Spenser was killed in the crash on March 16, 2021.(Used by permission Spencer Family)...

Joseph Spenser was killed in the crash on March 16, 2021.(Used by permission Spencer Family)

(Used by permission Spencer Family)

PROVO, Utah – The Summit County Attorney’s Office filed one charge of manslaughter, a second-degree felony, against a Utah County Sheriff deputy who was involved in a crash last year that killed a 22-year-old BYU student. 

A charging document said, “Joseph Richardson was driving southbound in his black Toyota Tacoma on 900 East around 433 North in Provo when he collided with a Toyota Avalon and killed J.S. (Joseph Spencer), the driver of the other vehicle.” 

Richarson was off duty and was responding to a SWAT call in his personal truck.

The Utah County Sheriff’s Office confirmed after the crash that Richardson was a member of the Utah County Metro SWAT team.

The document said investigators accessed the crash data from Richardson’s truck.

“…the Tacoma’s speed was 56.5 mph 4.7 seconds prior to the crash. The data then shows that the Tacoma’s speed rose to 57.8 mph 2.2 seconds prior to the crash,” the document said. “The data then shows deceleration began at 1.7 seconds prior to the crash and decreased from 57.2 mph to 37.9 mph at the moment that the crash occurred.”

Police: Sheriff’s deputy struck, killed student on way to SWAT standoff

The speed limit on the road is 35 mph.

The charging document said witnesses indicated that Richardson’s truck was traveling at a high rate of speed — faster than the posted speed limit.

Investigators looked at surveillance video of the crash from three businesses.

According to the document, the event recorder from Richardson’s truck showed he pressed his brake pedal and swerved to the left just before he collided with Spencer’s car.

Richardson got out of his truck to render aid to Spencer, according to the document. When paramedics arrived, they pronounced Spencer dead. He suffered blunt trauma to the head.

An officer on the scene asked Richardson what happened. The document said, “Richardson pointed to his truck and stated that he was the other driver.”

Richardson explained he was on his way to a SWAT call.

“As I was coming down here, I saw him start to pull out in front of me,” Richardson told police. “I shouldn’t… I shouldn’t have tried to beat him.”

The analysis of the event recorder on Richardson’s truck supported what he told police.

Even though the crash happened in Utah County, the Summit County Attorney’s Office said it was acting under special authority from the Utah County Attorney’s Office due to a potential conflict of interest.

Richardson was placed on paid administrative leave following the crash.

“Due to a pending lawsuit we are not able to say much about this accident. Our deputy, who has been with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, has been on leave pending the outcome of this investigation since the accident occurred,” said a statement released Monday from Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith. “This incident is a tragedy for all involved. Our hearts are broken for the loss and pain this accident has caused.”

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Utah County deputy charged in connection with 2021 crash that killed BYU student