Salt Lake officers cleared in shooting of gunman who threatened firefighters

May 12, 2023, 12:43 PM | Updated: May 21, 2023, 4:24 pm

Image from body camera...

Body camera video shows the moments just before a man was shot after threatening officers with a shotgun on July 9, 2022. The officers were justified in the shooting, the District Attorney said Friday. (Salt Lake City Police Department)

(Salt Lake City Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Salt Lake police officers have been found to be legally justified in shooting a man who pointed a shotgun at the officers after threatening to shoot firefighters.

Officers Taylor Adair and Carson Jones were cleared Friday by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

On July 9, 2022, Salt Lake firefighters were called to 1423 S. Utahna Drive on a report that Peter Michael Larsen, 45, had set the weeds in his backyard on fire. When informed “that the fire he had set was against the law and that a fire investigator would be in contact with him,” Larsen became “extremely agitated and told firefighters that he would not speak to anyone,” according to charging documents.

Salt Lake police release body cam video from officer shooting of a man who set his yard on fire

Approximately eight hours later, a neighbor called 911 saying that Larsen had started another fire in his backyard. Firefighters again responded to Larsen’s house and began putting out the fire. But a short time later, they were confronted by Larsen who “threatened to sick his dog on the firefighters and threatened to shoot them if they came on his property,” according to the charges.

Police were called and officers Adair and Jones responded. They went into a backyard area adjacent to Larsen’s house.

“They could see into the backyard through a hole in a burned-out section of the fence as well as through spaces between burned fence slats,” Gill’s final report states.

Larsen then stepped out of his home holding a shotgun. After the officers yelled commands for Larsen to drop the weapon, he briefly went back into the home, then stepped back out and “started bringing his shotgun up and leveling it at the officers,” according to the report.

“What was in his hands was going to kill me or my partner, or other people in the community,” Jones later told investigators while noting that he had a clear view of Larsen holding the shotgun. He said when Larsen came out of his home the second time and raised his shotgun, it became a matter of “saving my life and saving my partner’s life because a shotgun (was) being leveled, pointed directly at us.

“Once it became an immediate danger, that’s when we took lethal action,” Jones said. “That’s when we reacted with deadly force.”

Likewise, Adair told investigators that when Larsen raised the shotgun, “he didn’t feel safe enough to let the suspect get the rest of the motion in. Officer Adair said he brought his rifle up all the way and started shooting,” the report states.

He said that he thought “that I was about to get shot. … I could see the shotgun coming up. To me, that is a, ‘I’m going to shoot this weapon,’ and so I wanted to beat him to the punch. I wanted to eliminate the threat before it got to the point where officer Jones and I could’ve actually gotten shot.”

Adair fired a total of 12 rounds from his rifle, while Jones fired two shots from his handgun, the report states. The officers then repeated their commands to “Drop the gun” and, “Let me see your … hands.”

The officers eventually entered the backyard and started a conversation with Larsen, who retreated into his house through an open door. Larsen was shot in both hands and was taken into custody.

Larsen pleaded guilty in November to assault on a police officer and arson in exchange for eight other counts being dismissed. On Jan. 17, he was sentenced to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.

Salt Lake City Police Chie Mike Brown released a state Friday afternoon the read:

As members of law enforcement, we have a responsibility to protect our community and ourselves from harm. The decision to use force – at any level – must always be made with great care and consideration.

I commend the two officers directly involved in this incident; they found themselves in a very dangerous and quickly unfolding situation. They relied on their training and experience to ensure not only their own safety but the safety of other officers, firefighters, and other neighbors. Without question, their actions saved lives and further demonstrated the professionalism of our officers when faced with highly unpredictable and dangerous situations.”

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Salt Lake officers cleared in shooting of gunman who threatened firefighters