SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 23, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has ruled the Feb. 17, 2022 fatal shooting of a man, who had been eluding officers for eight hours after threatening a woman and her husband with a gun, was justified.
That despite the fact eight officers fired up to 51 rounds to the admittedly suicidal suspect’s likely only one shot, which killed a West Jordan police dog.
District Attorney Sim Gill held a press conference Friday with video for the release of his 32-page letter of findings from the fatal shooting of Zachary Tyler Alvarenga.
A West Valley City Police-led Officer Involved Critical Incident protocol team completed its investigation by May 16 of last year, forwarding their report to the district attorney’s office for review.
All eight officers who fired their weapons that night at Alvarenga refused to be interviewed by the OICI protocol team, which Gill said was their constitutional right to remain silent.
His office, Gill wrote, “has declined to file criminal charges” on the use of deadly force by officers from the West Jordan, South Jordan and Unified police departments.
“A jury would likely find that the facts and reasonable inferences satisfy the elements of the affirmative legal defense of justification and therefore afford them a legal defense to a criminal charge,” Gill wrote.
Events began around 11:30 a.m. in the Feb. 17, 2022 incident when a woman called police to say Alvarenga, an acquaintance, had pointed a gun at her and briefly held her against her will to discuss a relationship, according to Gill’s lengthy review of the events that day.
Alvarenga continued to follow her throughout the day, and police were following him as well, joined at one point by a Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter. At one point Alvarenga drove to Springville, in Utah County, then back to South Jordan. At around 5 p.m., the husband of the victim of Alvarenga’s attentions had called 911 to report he had also threatened him with a gun.
Police had been following Alvarenga “loosely” throughout the day, and the suspect had driven away from two attempted traffic stops. Officers had also made contact by phone on occasion, speaking to him for more than an hour total, trying to negotiate his surrender, hearing him talk of suicide, and suicide-by-cop, according to Gill’s report. It was suspected he might be wearing a ballistic vest.
Shortly after Alvarenga stopped for gas at a South Jordan Costco shortly after 7 p.m. officers were closing in, laying a spike strip successfully, and at a stoplight in the area of Redwood Road and 11400 S., he fled his vehicle to a credit union parking lot. Officers had rolled up with lights and sirens on.
Police chased on foot, Alvarenga running with a gun in his hand, the report details, spotted even by the DPS helicopter, when West Jordan Officer Taylor Longmire ordered his police dog Maya to “hit,” as the report said. The dog engaged, biting Alvarenga, who fired a single round, killing the dog, his gun also pointing in the general direction of the pursuing officers, Gill wrote.
Longmire and South Jordan Police officers Wayne Henderson and Jennifer Rosse then “returned fire,” Gill’s report said, firing up to 20 rounds between them. Alvarenga fell face down, but was still moving slightly.
He was seen taking his arm under his stomach, eventually pulling his gun out, as officers yelled commands to drop it, and put his hands out. Instead, he seemed to prop himself up on an elbow and move his right arm and gun hand toward officers, Gill’s review said. Then, roughly six and a half minutes after the first volley of shots from police, officers fired again.
Sgt. Tyler Webster, Detective Bo Reier and Detective Aaron Curtis of West Jordan Police, and detectives Cody Pender and Jerry Valdez of the Unified Police department, fired a total of up 31 rounds, Gill’s summation said, leaving the suspect obviously deceased.