8 officers ‘justified’ in shooting, killing of gunman who killed police dog

Sep 22, 2023, 7:31 PM

SOUTH JORDAN — Eight police officers involved in a deadly confrontation with an armed man, who was an employee with the Utah Department of Corrections and a member of the Utah National Guard, were legally justified in shooting and killing the man in February of 2022.

That’s the conclusion announced Friday by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

Zachary Tyler Alvarenga, 25, of West Jordan, was shot and killed by officers from multiple agencies following a series of events that lasted between six and eight hours and culminated in a parking lot at 1750 W. 11400 South in South Jordan where Alvarenga shot and killed a police K-9.

On Feb. 17, 2022, a woman — who used to be one of Alvarenga’s co-workers — called 911 to report that he was threatening her with a gun, according to District Attorney Sim Gill’s report. West Jordan police spotted Alvarenga and attempted to pull him over, but he fled and an ensuing chase was terminated for safety concerns.

Alvarenga later showed up in the parking lot of the woman’s apartment complex and police were called, but he again successfully fled from officers.

That afternoon, the woman’s husband contacted police to say that Alvarenga had brandished a gun at them. Police located Alvarenga for a third time, but this time loosely followed him in unmarked vehicles and called for a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter to assist, according to the report. Police say they also called Alvarenga on his phone to try and get him to surrender.

Shooting scene

Eight police officers involved in a deadly confrontation with an armed man, who was an employee with the Utah Department of Corrections and a member of the Utah National Guard, were legally justified in shooting and killing the man in February of 2022. (Lauren Steinbrecher, KSL TV)

Just after 7 p.m., after driving for about two hours — going to Springville and back to Salt Lake County — Alvarenga stopped in South Jordan to refuel his vehicle. Officers got into position and were able to successfully spike his tires as he left a gas station. But Alvarenga continued to drive as officers from multiple agencies followed him. Alvarenga drove for six more minutes before being stopped by a red light near 11400 South and Redwood Road. He then got out and ran into a nearby parking lot.

Police K-9 “Maya” was released and caught up with Alvarenga, who then “turned and fired one round at the K-9, hitting and fatally injuring her. Three officers returned fire. Mr. Alvarenga briefly continued running and then fell to the ground,” the report states.

Officers took cover behind a police truck and began yelling orders to Alvarenga to show them his hands. But four minutes later, while still on the ground, Alvarenga retrieved his gun and “began manipulating it,” according to the report. Two minutes later, while Alvarenga is still on the ground on his stomach facing away from the officers, he turned in the direction of officers and lifted his elbow and forearm, prompting five officers to shoot, Gill said.

Zachary Tyler Alvarenga

Zachary Tyler Alvarenga (Alvarenga family)

The district attorney said up to 20 rounds were fired by police during the first volley of shots, followed by 31 more rounds from both handguns and rifles. An autopsy determined Alvarenga died from multiple gunshot wounds.

Gill said he had a lot of body camera videos, surveillance videos, and video recorded from the Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter to review in making his decision. The video from the helicopter shows officers spiking his tires as well as Maya chasing Alvarenga across the parking lot. The moment Maya was shot was also captured in heartbreaking video, as well as an officer picking up the wounded dog and taking her away from the scene to get help.

Maya, a 6½-year-old Belgian Malinois from the West Jordan Police Department, was killed by Alvarenga.

The eight officers determined to be legally justified in using deadly force are Taylor Longmore, Tyler Webster, Bo Reier and Aaron Curtis from the West Jordan Police Department; Cody Pender and Jerry Valdez from the Unified Police Department; and Wayne Henderson and Jennifer Rosse from the South Jordan Police Department.

The Utah National Guard says Alvarenga joined in 2019 and was a parachute rigger assigned to Alpha Company, Group Support Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group. He had also been employed by the Corrections Department and worked at the Utah State Prison for about seven months before his death,

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8 officers ‘justified’ in shooting, killing of gunman who killed police dog