MIDVALE, Utah, April 9, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said a fatal officer-involved shooting of a man in Midvale on Sept. 18 has been ruled justified.
Gill said in a Friday morning press conference that two officers from Unified Police Department and one officer from West Valley City Police Department discharged their weapons. The officers that discharged their weapons were UPD Detective Chelsea Winslow, UPD officer Jeffery Nelson, and WVCPD Detective Alan Belcher. The investigating agency was Salt Lake City Police Department.
The incident began when a man, Joseph Schultz, 24, of West Valley City, was found to have multiple outstanding felony warrants and was being sought for a robbery, a drive-by shooting and repeatedly fleeing from police. He was considered “armed and dangerous,” Gill said, and had made threats that he “would go out with a bang” if he encountered officers.
Police had located the suspect vehicle, which was stolen, at a Motel 6 in Midvale and spiked the tires just before 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 18, but Schultz continued to flee, driving over sidewalks and through a construction zone.
A witness who was a passenger in a car in the area said she saw a male who was a passenger in the front seat of the suspect vehicle “waving a dark colored gun in his right hand with the muzzle pointed down.”
The disabled suspect vehicle came to a stop at the intersection of 7200 South and Bingham Junction Boulevard, Gill said, and the four occupants then exited the vehicle and fled on foot.
Officers from multiple agencies began pursuing the occupants on foot.
Schultz and a woman who was a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle fled southbound on Bingham Junction Boulevard and were taken into custody without incident after a short foot pursuit. Another woman who was a passenger in the back seat of the vehicle was also located and taken into custody.
The front passenger, who was later identified as Matthew Knowlden, 22, fled along 7200 South on foot.
Nelson said he saw Knowlden carrying a “small, black automatic handgun” in his right hand, Gill said. He ordered Knowlden to stop and drop the gun, Gill added.
“Officer Nelson stated Mr. Knowlden raised the gun and pointed it north in the direction of where other officers would be arriving and where civilians would be present,” Gill said.
Nelson then began firing “out of fear for his life and the safety of himself and other officers and civilians,” Gill said.
Winslow, who was also running directly towards Knowlden with her Taser, also said she saw a metallic object in the suspect’s right hand “which he pointed at me and then started firing” Gill quoted Winslow as saying. He was not, in fact, firing at her and the gun he was carrying had its safety on, Gill said. She said she heard gunshots and felt bullets passing by the left side of her upper body. She also said the shots were fired in the northbound direction, where there were multiple civilians. It turned out that the shots were being fired by Nelson at Knowlden.
Winslow said she ducked to avoid the bullets and momentarily lost sight of the suspect. She retreated back and ran for cover behind a vehicle. She then began firing at Knowlden with her duty weapon.
Belcher, the third officer that fired, said he saw Knowlden point a gun towards Winslow, “and pull the trigger,” Gill said.
“Detective Belcher said he drew his weapon and began firing at Mr. Knowlden because he believed Mr. Knowlden was attempting to kill Detective Winslow ‘and he would then attempt to kill me, fearing for the safety of the public and responding officers,'” Gill said.
Gill said that it appears in Belcher’s body-worn camera footage that Knowlden began to raise his right hand and then turned his upper body towards Winslow “bringing his hands together while holding an object with his hands,” Gill said.
Knowlden then ran to the east with the gun in his right hand before falling to the ground. Nelson fired 17 shots, Belcher fired seven shots and Winslow fired seven shots.
The officers then approached Knowlden; a black Taurus 709 Slim 9 mm pistol was found laying on the ground next to him on his right side. The handgun was later found to be stolen.
Officers on scene began life-saving measures and medical personnel arrived soon after. Knowlden was then transported to Intermountain Medical Center, where he was later pronounced deceased. The autopsy found Knowlden sustained eight gunshot wounds from five bullets.
Belcher’s body-worn camera footage was then shown at the press conference, as well as still photos taken from his body-worn camera.
All three officers declined to be interviewed by the Salt Lake County DA’s office but did provide written statements through their attorneys.
Gill said all three officers were justified in using deadly force.
No officers were injured during the incident.
Gephardt Daily will update this story as more information becomes available.