Attorneys urge jury to consider intent in trial for man accused of murdering Provo officer

Mar 1, 2024, 5:55 PM | Updated: 7:18 pm

PROVO — An attorney showed the jury a photo of a Provo police officer and the coat he was wearing as part of his uniform the day he was shot and killed while trying to arrest a man.

Over five years after Joseph Shinners died in the line of duty — 1,882 days — the trial for Matt Hoover, the man accused of his murder, began on Friday. Eleven jurors were selected for the jury. They are all men, except for one woman.

Hoover walking into the courtroom.

Hoover walking into the courtroom. (KSL TV)

“Closure seems to be finally on the horizon, at least some measure of closure,” said Chad Grunander, deputy Utah County attorney.

The incident occurred in the parking lot of what was then Bed Bath and Beyond, on University Avenue in Orem. Grunander said during his opening arguments Hoover shot Shinners with a purple .380 Ruger pistol, and the bullet missed the bulletproof vest Shinners had been wearing, which must have been pulled down or to the side.

“Tragically the bulletproof vest that officer Shinners was wearing that night did not catch the bullet,” Grunander said. “Joe experienced every police officer’s worst nightmare when they put on the uniform and the badge — he was killed in the line of duty.”

Grunander showing Shinners's bulletproof vest.

Grunander showing Shinners’s bulletproof vest. (KSL TV)

Grunander described the moments when Shinners was hit by the fatal bullet as his fellow officers watched his final moments.

“Joe told him, ‘I’m hit’ and then began to spit what appeared to be blood, Grunander said. “Those words, I’m hit, were the last words that Joe uttered.

Hoover’s attorney, Jonathan Nish, said in his opening statement that Hoover was not intending or attempting to shoot Shinners, but was trying to shoot himself. He said Shinners’ death was the “horrific byproduct of an attempted suicide.”

“It just didn’t go the way it was supposed to,” he said.

Nish speaking to the jury about the intent of the fatal shooting.

Nish speaking to the jury about the intent of the fatal shooting. (KSL TV)

Nish said Hoover had escaped from officers in a previous, similar situation with fewer officers, and had made the decision months prior to Jan. 5, 2019, he would kill himself if he could not escape.

“Matt had made a decision. He had made a decision he wasn’t going to go to jail,” he said.

The attorney said the plan officers had was “extraordinarily recklessly executed.” He said Hoover may have not been the one to cause the discharge of the weapon; it may have been another officer at the scene who had been hitting Hoover in the face at the time the gun went off.

Nish said in order for Hoover to be found guilty of aggravated murder, prosecutors would need to prove his action was intentional. He said Hoover feels grief and sorrow about the incident, as well.

Video of police officers on the scene at the parking lot.

Video of police officers on the scene at the parking lot. (KSL TV)

Grunander said the identity of the person who shot and killed Shinners is not a question, but the jury will instead need to determine what was happening in Hoover’s mind at the time.

He said Hoover’s ex-wife told police days after the incident that four months prior to the day Shinners was shot, Hoover had told her, “I’ll have to shoot them if they come after me.” And, after she reminded him police officers have families, he told her, “I would kill myself then … if I can’t get out.”

Grunander said Hoover tested positive for methamphetamine after he was arrested and had, earlier that day, posted on Facebook about his dislike for officers. Another time, he posted, “Never push me to violence, I’ve been waiting for an excuse to use it.”

Hoover's Facebook post that he made before the shooting.

Hoover’s Facebook post that he made before the shooting. (KSL TV)

The deputy county attorney asked the jury to “shine a light — a bright light — on what happened in the defendant’s truck on that cold, dark January night in 2019” by finding Hoover guilty.

The trial is scheduled to last until March 15.

Grunander showing the jury the gun that Hoover used with a picture of Shinners behind him.

Grunander showing the jury the gun that Hoover used with a picture of Shinners behind him. (KSL TV)

Contributing: Garna Mejia, KSL TV

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Attorneys urge jury to consider intent in trial for man accused of murdering Provo officer