Wife of veteran killed by SLC police shares message as officers found justified
Sep 15, 2023, 7:08 PM | Updated: 7:14 pm
SALT LAKE CITY — The wife of a man shot and killed by police is sharing a message on the day the Salt Lake County District Attorney issued the decision that the officers in the shooting were justified.
For Tesha Cieslak Friday was hard for her. She said she’s been getting into a routine and moving forward raising her children a year and a half after her late husband Matt Cieslak died.
“This kind of tears the wound open a little bit,” she said, on Zoom from Idaho.
She was brought back the day her husband was shot and killed by police in Salt Lake City in March of 2022.
Tesha was in Salt Lake City at the time of the shooting.
“He called and said he wasn’t feeling very well, and something just fell off,” she remembered. “And he asked us to come down and stay with him that night.”
Cieslak was staying in Salt Lake from Idaho for a mental health-related treatment services at the VA. The veteran’s severe PTSD spiraled into a crisis.
“His reality of what he was seeing was not what was happening,” Tesha said.
Going through the events of March 26, 2022 on Friday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill began to get choked up as he talked about the fact that Cieslak was in town to get mental health services, after having been deployed on four tours of duty to serve the country.
Cieslak was awarded the prestigious Utah Cross for saving a man’s life in Cambodia.
Gill paused as his voice cracked.
“We sometimes forget what our veterans continue to suffer from and that what we need to do as a community to do more, because it ends in this kind of loss of life,” he said.
Gill explained the facts of the day, and how the situation started with 911 calls into dispatch of a shooting and carjacking. It was determined Cieslak fired a single shot that hit a van, before he carjacked two men at gunpoint.
He then led police on a chase, and Gill showed two body camera videos from both officers as they exited the patrol car when Cieslak became high-centered on a berm.
Through interviewing the officers and reviewing the footage, Gill determined that Cieslak fired at both officers multiple times, and ran toward them with a gun.
Officers fired back at Cieslak, and he fell to the ground.
Gill explained that officers made the right call, and he declined to file criminal charges.
He called the situation “tragic” for everyone involved, including the officers.
“They’re doing their job based on how they’re trained,” Gill said. “They did nothing wrong. They did their job to protect our community, acting on the information that was available to them.”
Tesha said Matt would have said himself that the officers did what they needed to, especially being in the military and understanding the importance of protecting others around you.
“I think that he absolutely would want them to know that they did exactly what they needed to do,” she said. “I know that he suffered from such severe PTSD and had nightmares and different things, and he would have never wanted to be a part of anybody else’s nightmares.”
While no one can change how this ended, Tesha hopes others can understand why it is so important for anyone struggling to reach out and get help.
Even if it’s a process, she said, there are groups out there that can help. Tesha said there is nothing weak about someone admitting they’re struggling.
“He waited until he broke to get help,” she said. “Just don’t wait.”
Gill urged family members and veterans to reach out to the crisis line 988 and press 1, or text 838255 for mental health services and help.