West Valley City officer ruled ‘justified’ in use of deadly force

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, Sept. 21, 2018 (Gephardt Daily) — No charges will be filed in the April shooting death of a suspect by a West Valley City Police officer.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill made the announcement on Friday morning, then screened bodycam footage and detailed other evidence for those present at the news conference.

West Valley City officer Nicholaus Green fired the shot that killed 20-year-old Elijah James Smith.

Police responded to the scene on April 8 after reports of a robbery of an electronics store. Spotting the suspect, later revealed to be Smith, police pursued him on foot through a nearby neighborhood.

Gill told reporters that Smith entered a residence, at 3551 S. Jenelle Bay (2140 West), where three children, age 13, 10 and 9, were home without adults present. Smith then fled to the attached garage, Gill said.

The oldest child alerted police, who walked through the house to the garage. Officer George Martinez led, armed with a Taser, followed by Green, then officer Philip Wright.

Elijah Smith. Photo: Salt Lake County

The officers identified themselves, then ordered Smith to show himself and put up his hands, the video shows. Smith raised only his left hand, and put his right hand in his pocket. Ordered again to raise both hands, Smith appeared to be pulling an object out of his pocket. The item was later determined to be a long screwdriver.

Green fired his gun, hitting Smith in the neck, and leaving him dead at the scene.

Green declined to be interviewed by police investigators, which is his constitutional right, Gill told reporters.

“Based on the facts presented … we do not intend to file criminal charges against officer Green,” Gill said. “Assuming officer green’s testimony, if any, would be consistent with the physical and photographic evidence collected by UPD investigators, as well as the statements provided by officer Martinez and Wright, we believe officer Green would be legally entitled to the affirmative defense of justification under Utah state law.

“In other words, that officer Green would be able to claim, successfully, at trial that he believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.”

Shortly after the announcement, the Facebook Group Black Lives Matter — Utah posted a notice of an upcoming protest of the decision in Smith’s case. The page, which has been closely following the Smith case, posted this explanation:

“This is a peaceful protest to let the District Attorney know that we want Justice for Elijah Smith. The Salt Lake District Attorney found the shooting justified even though Elijah was unarmed and complied with police. We want black men to make it to court. We want police to use de-escalation tactics. We want police to use less than lethal weapons. We want police to realize that it is not comply or die it is protect and serve.”

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