SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 16, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced on Friday afternoon that his office had found another officer justified in a use of deadly force in a case.
The scenario is familiar. Fortunately, in this case, no one died.
Gill spoke hours earlier with Bill Gephardt about his department’s findings in this case, and his frustration with this variety of case, which involves someone with known mental health issues.
The shooting happened at about 1 p.m. on March 20, a Thursday, at the Stillwater Apartments, at 5560 Vine St. A Murray Police officer and a worker from Adult Protective Services arrived to perform a welfare check on a woman with a history of mental challenges, who had reportedly been seen a few days earlier, partially clothed and carrying a firearm in the apartment’s parking lot.
“An officer went there to assist that APS worker, and when they were knocking on the door, a bullet was fired through the door,” Gill told Gephardt in a podcast interview.
The officer called for backup, then knocked on the door again, announcing the police presence, Gill said. When the woman did not open the door, officers used a key.
“And as they opened the door using a key, they were confronted with a person with a gun pointing in their direction, and that is at that time that one officer fired a single round, hitting her, and they were able to take her into custody.”
The bullet hit the woman on the left side of her belly, Gill said. She was taken into custody and transported to the hospital for treatment. The case later went to Gill’s office for formal review.
“And so our question was: ‘At that moment, when that officer fired that shot, is he allowed, under the law, to do that?’ And our conclusion was yes he is, because at that point, he was presented with a direct, immediate threat for his safety and the safety of other officers, and under Utah law, you can use that lethal force,” Gill said, adding that at the upcoming news conference, “… they will be found to be justified in their use of lethal force.”
But this particular incident illustrates a critical issue, Gill said.
“This continues to trouble me in our office, because this is the intersection between law enforcement and those who are mentally ill,” he said.
“I’ve reviewed almost 100 cases, and about one third of them, roughly, have involved mentally ill individuals with mental health issues. So I continue to sort of urge our law enforcement community and our legislators and all of us to continue to examine ways to address this issue in our community, because this is not going away.”
To hear more on this case and on what Gill thinks needs to happen next, watch his interview with Gephardt on the player above.