Salt Lake County DA: Officer-involved fatal shooting in October 2018 was justified

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Aug. 21, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said in a press conference Wednesday a fatal officer-involved shooting in October 2018 was justified.

Gill said the shooting of 23-year-old Andrey Tkachenko of Salt Lake City on Oct. 18 was was necessary to avoid death or serious bodily injury to the officers or civilians.

The officers that fired at Tkachenko were Unified Police Department’s Detective Jerry Valdez and Saratoga Springs Police Department’s Detective Nick Stidham, Gill said.

“Based on the evidence that was presented to us, we do not intend to file any criminal charges against either detective,” Gill said. “We believe that Detective Valdez and Detective Stidham would be legally entitled to the affirmative defense of justification under Utah state law.

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

The incident took place in a parking lot in the area of 455 E. 300 South at approximately 10:30 p.m., Gill said.

Gill said Tkachenko fled from the UPD enforcement unit in a stolen vehicle on Oct. 16, 2018, two days before the shooting.

“Mr. Tkachenko had apparently fled from police officers previously, and on Oct. 18, 2018 there was a GPS tracking warrant that was obtained and they were able to subsequently locate the car that was driven by Mr. Tkachenko,” Gill said. “When officers arrived at that location they discovered Mr. Tkachenko in that stolen vehicle.”

Detectives with the Metro Gang Unit and Directive Enforcement Unit tracked the stolen vehicle driven by Tkachenko to a Walmart at 4627 S. 900 East.

In the parking lot of the Walmart, Tkachenko exited from a white Chevy Impala and got into a black Nissan Altima.

“Officers were intending to but did not apprehend Mr. Tkachenko because of potential safety risks to the public,” Gill said.

Two women that had come to the Walmart with the suspect drove the Chevy Impala behind the Nissan Altima, driven by Tkachenko, into Salt Lake City, and detectives tracked the vehicles.

Detectives followed Tkachenko in a parking lot at 451 E. 300 South.

Valdez entered the parking lot first in an F-150 truck because the truck had reinforced push bumpers on it, Gill said. The parking lot is similar in size to a large alleyway and has only one entrance and exit, Gill said. Another UPD officer then entered the parking lot behind the truck.

“When Detective Valdez exited the vehicle he yelled ‘Police, get on the ground,’ at a man associated with Mr. Tkachenko who was standing next to Mr. Tkachenko’s vehicle,” Gill said.

That man was in the area to allegedly purchase drugs from Tkachenko, Gill added. Tkachenko allegedly told that man to tell Valdez to move his truck, and the man approached Valdez.

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When the man approached the officer he asked him if he needed help and the officer said no. Gill said the officer had his police identification and “Police” written across his chest. Eventually the man went back to Tkachenko’s car and told him the police were there, Gill said.

Two other officers, one of whom was Saratoga Springs’ Detective Stidham, climbed over a fence separating the Peter Pan apartments from the parking lot. One officer began running after the man, who allegedly was there to buy drugs, who was fleeing the scene on foot.

As Valdez and Stidham approached Tkachenko’s vehicle, Tkachenko started revving the engine and rapidly accelerated, driving his car at both detectives, Gill said.

“Both detectives fired their weapons at Mr. Tkachenko out of fear of being pinned underneath and being hit by the vehicle,” Gill said. “Both detectives’ knees were grazed by Mr. Tkachenko’s car as he sped towards them. The detectives stopped firing as they realized they were no longer in danger. As the officers approached the vehicle Mr. Tkachenko raised both his hands, then began lowering one hand to the waistband.”

Officers were able to break through the driver’s side window and stop Tkachenko’s movements. They then pulled him from the vehicle and began performing CPR on him.

Tkachenko died from injuries sustained from gunshot wounds. Officers found a handgun in his waistband.

A condensed version of the 17-minute video was then shown at the press conference, corroborating Gill’s description.

He said Valdez was wearing a body cam but it had been powered down, because it had run out of batteries. He did not give the status of Stidham’s body cam. One of the other officers on scene was also wearing a body cam but he did not start it until after the shooting, Gill said.

Gill added at the close of the press conference: “I also want to take a second to acknowledge to Mr. Tkachenko’s family,” Gill added at the close of the press conference. “Any time we have a loss of life of a loved one it’s a tragedy, so we send our condolences to the family.”

The officers who were involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave, per standard protocol, pending the outcome of the investigation, which was led by the West Valley City Police Department.

Andrew Burton, police chief for Saratoga Springs/Bluffdale, explained that his officer, Stidham, is a detective assigned to the Bluffdale precinct and is assigned part time to the Metro Gang Unit. The officer had been out that night working on another case that was related to a situation in Bluffdale when this incident arose and became a priority.

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