Additional details on 2 Utah officer-involved shootings released

Dec 1, 2023, 5:17 PM

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Friday released additional details about two justifi...

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Friday released additional details about two justified officer-involved shootings in Salt Lake County involving suspects who survived and have been convicted and sentenced to jail. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

WEST VALLEY CITY — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill reaffirmed Friday that officers involved in two unrelated shootings were legally justified in using deadly force, and also provided more details about each investigation.

The men shot by police in each incident survived. Because of that, Gill was limited in the information he originally could release due to ongoing legal proceedings. Now, each has been convicted in their respective cases, Gill stated Friday, meaning additional information about their confrontations with officers could be released.

On Nov. 26, 2021, Malui Salesi Vehikite, 29, of South Jordan, who was wanted on several outstanding felony warrants, was shot after firing on police and shooting South Jordan police officer Caleb Wilson, severing his femoral artery and nearly killing him.

Utah officers’ actions in 2 police shootings were legally justified, report says

Officers looking for Vehiikite had gone to the house of a family member, 10424 S. Tarali Court (1875 West).

Body camera video recorded by the officer who was shot shows while he was looking in the basement, the officer pushed a door to a bathroom open and then heard someone from behind the door say, “Back up.” As the officer backed up into an adjacent bedroom, Vehikite exited the bathroom, pointed his gun at a police sergeant and then shot the other officer, according to charging documents.

As Vehikite tried to escape by running out of the room and to the stairs, he was met by officer Garrett Williams.

“Mr. Vehikite put both hands on his gun and raised it at officer Williams, who immediately fired at him. Mr. Vehikite fell to the ground,” the report states.A man accused of shooting and nearly killing a South Jordan police officer was charged Monday with attempted aggravated murder and three other felonies.

The investigation determined that Wilson fired his weapon twice and Williams shot at Vehikite five times. Prosecutors believe Vehikite fired three times even though he denied pulling the trigger, according to Gill’s report. He told police he was scared to go back to jail because he “didn’t belong there,” the report states.

The officers were determined, a year ago, to be legally justified in using deadly force. Vehikite was charged with attempted aggravated murder and other crimes. This year, he pleaded guilty to discharge of a firearm, a first-degree felony, and two counts of assault against a peace officer, a second-degree felony, and was sentenced to seven years to up to life in the Utah State Prison.

In the second case discussed Friday, Gill provided more details on an Aug. 7, 2022, shooting involving West Valley Police Sgt. Jason Johnson and suspect Mitchell Van Halsey.

Police shot man they say robbed 2 after shooting at them

On that day, West Valley police say Halsey shot at a man in the parking lot of Carl’s Jr., 3469 S. Redwood Road, following a confrontation. A police booking affidavit states Haley “pulled out a gun, pointed it at (the man’s) head and pulled the trigger. The bullet grazed (the man’s) head, causing a wound to (his) scalp.”

The 41-year-old victim said he dropped his money on the ground, pleaded with Halsey not to shoot him again and ran inside the fast food restaurant. Halsey took the man’s money and rode his bicycle to the Indoor Swap Meet a few blocks away, near 1500 West and 3500 South, the affidavit says.

Johnson located Halsey near the swap meet and ordered him to stop. Gill’s report states Halsey was walking backward while still facing Johnson, when he reached into his waistband, pulled out a gun and pointed it at Johnson, prompting the officer to shoot. When questioned by the protocol team three days later, Halsey said he could “barely remember” what had happened because he “had been drinking too much,” the report states.

Johnson fired twice, according to the report. He was determined in June to be legally justified in using deadly force.

Halsey pleaded guilty this year to discharge of a firearm, a second-degree felony; and possession or use of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony, and was sentenced to three to 15 years in the Utah State Prison.

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Additional details on 2 Utah officer-involved shootings released