Officers legally justified in shooting of armed military veteran suffering mental health crisis

May 17, 2024, 6:59 PM | Updated: 7:09 pm

TAYLORSVILLE — Two Taylorsville police officers who were forced to shoot a military veteran armed with a knife and having a mental health crisis, were legally justified in using deadly force, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill called the shooting of 35-year-old Alex Stewart Boren a “dynamic and volatile situation.”

But Gill was also pleased to report Friday that Boren, who survived, “is doing well and getting the help he needs,” and is “thriving” in mental health court. He also renewed his call for more treatment for military veterans.

On March 18, 2023, Boren had been at a friend’s house, near 4400 South and 2200 West, when he started harming himself, according to the final investigative report of the officer-involved shooting. Gill says investigators later learned Boren was having a psychotic episode and believed a third person had entered his friend’s home and pulled out a gun.

Boren then cut his wrists and throat and caused extensive damage inside his friend’s home by breaking furniture, a TV and throwing items “all over the place,” according to charging documents.

To show the level of mental health crisis Boren was suffering, Gill said Friday that Boren allegedly believed someone else had caused his cutting injuries and “has no memory of police even being inside the house with him.”

Body camera footage of officers confronting Boren.

Body camera footage of officers confronting Boren. (KSL TV)

Friends and family members say Boren served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was shot during the Iraq-Iran War and was having “an acute post-traumatic stress disorder episode” during the confrontation with police.

Six Taylorsville police officers responded to the house. A blood trail led them to an upstairs bedroom closet where Boren was found underneath a bed sheet. Body camera videos released Friday show officers cautiously approaching the closet while yelling, “Alex, we’re here to help you buddy” multiple times, as well as “show us your hands” and “Alex, you haven’t done anything wrong.”

An officer is then seen using a broom handle to move the sheet off of Boren. It’s at that point the officer discovers a knife with a 10-inch blade on the floor next to Boren. As the officer attempts to move the knife away, Boren suddenly pops up from under the sheet and grabs the knife.

As Boren begins to stand with a knife in his hand and officers standing a short distance away, officer Michael Haggard fires three rounds at the same time a Taser and a “less-lethal” round are used. Boren falls onto his back. But he refuses to drop the knife, which is still clearly visible in his raised hand.

Boren then sits up, with the knife still in his hand, prompting officer Shawn McKinnon to fire two more times. Boren is still holding the knife at that point, but a short time later, he throws it toward the officers before rolling onto his side and placing his hands near his waistband.

At that point, the officers continue to yell commands.

“Alex, we want to help you. Show us your hands,” an officer says.

Body camera footage of officers confronting Boren.

Body camera footage of officers confronting Boren. (KSL TV)

But at least one hand continues to be hidden as the officers move in closer. The decision is made to use a Taser to make sure Boren is not holding any other weapons. Once the Taser is deployed, officers quickly move in to place Boren in handcuffs and allow medical personnel to enter the room.

Taylorsville Police Chief Brady Cottam says he has watched the body-cam videos several times and believes, in light of the dynamic situation, his officers did their jobs extremely well and he’s pleased everyone, including Boren, survived.

“I feel like our officers were extraordinary and did an exceptional job in this situation based on the totality of the circumstances. They were extremely patient. They tried every avenue as far as getting this individual help,” he said.

Boren was later charged in 3rd District Court with criminal mischief, a second-degree felony, for the damage he caused to his friend’s house. In December, he pleaded guilty with a plea in abeyance to the charge, which will be dismissed upon successful completion of Veteran’s Court and three years of probation.

Gill could have charged Boren for allegedly threatening the officers with the knife. But he opted not to, saying Boren is taking accountability for his actions and is getting the help he needs.

“It was clear to us that he was in a state of psychosis. And the goal here was to get him the help that he needed,” he said.

Gill also pointed out the irony of talking about this case during Mental Health Awareness month. As he has in the past, Gill on Friday again emphasized the need for getting veterans the help and proper treatment they need.

“We have almost 18 to 22 veterans every day who commit suicide. This is not where we should end up with those veterans and we can do better in getting treatment and support for those veterans who are just in incredible, dire need for mental health and supportive services,” he said.

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Officers legally justified in shooting of armed military veteran suffering mental health crisis