Sim Gill finds use of force ‘not justified’ before shooting of Zane James

May 27, 2022, 11:22 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 2:57 pm

SALT LAKE COUNTY — Nearly four years to the day after Officer Casey Davies shot Zane James twice, the Salt Lake District Attorney’s office says Cottonwood Height’s Police Officer Casey Davies was not justified in his use of force before the shooting.

In February, District Attorney Sim Gill’s office reopened the case – the first time his office has reopened a case – because he said they got new information that in a police pursuit before the shooting of James on May 29, 2018, Davies used his patrol car to hit James who was fleeing on a dirt bike.

“When we originally screened that case, we didn’t have that information,” Gill said. “It was never presented. We never had it.”

James’ family argued last year that the city withheld the information about the crash. In February, that information appeared on an updated police report tied to the shooting.

After Gill’s office reopened the case, attorney Sam Meziani, who represents Zane’s parents, said, “My clients have always known the investigation was not complete. My clients have always believed Cottonwood Heights has not been forthright and honest.”

Gill said over the last few months, they have reinterviewed witnesses and attempted to interview Davies, who again exercised his right not to speak.

Gill says his team also reexamined the patrol car and the street. He says they found evidence of a crash but no evidence that James posed a threat to the officer to justify hitting him with his car.

“We couldn’t find any basis for why that use of force would have been justified,” he said. “So, it came down to, can we meet the elements, and do we have sufficient evidence? What can we go into the court with?”

Gill says they looked at aggravated assault but says his office “didn’t have sufficient evidence to get” to criminal charges for Davies.

“That was the challenge,” Gill said.

In response to the D.A.’s released findings on Friday, Meziani said in a statement, “The District Attorney’s findings vindicate Zane James. The D.A. correctly concluded Davies was not justified in using deadly force when he crashed into Zane.”

Still, Gill reiterated what his office has said since October 2018, that Davies was justified in shooting James, who was later taken off life support.

“The decision to fire that weapon was separate from this use of force [with Davies’ patrol car],” Gill said. “And so, it did not ultimately alter our original finding.

Meziani’s statement continued, “The public has yet to hear the complete story of Davies’ actions in crashing into Zane James, and then fatally shooting him in the back on May 29, 2018. We look forward to the day we will present all the facts to a jury of citizens.”

In response to Friday’s update in the case, Heather White — a lawyer representing Cottonwood Heights in the family’s federal civil lawsuit — said, “Because this is an issue that relates to Officer Davies, and we do not represent him, we will leave any possible comments to his attorneys.”

That statement stands in contrast to what White told KSL when the case was reopened earlier this year:

“The city continues to maintain that Officer Davies used legal force in shooting Zane James,” White told KSL in a statement at the time.  “The city stands behind its officers’ actions relating to the shooting and will continue to defend them against the James family’s claims.”

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Sim Gill finds use of force ‘not justified’ before shooting of Zane James