Salt Lake DA Sim Gill: Fatal officer-involved shooting of man in Salt lake County ruled justified

Police from multiple agencies on the scene of a shooting outside the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office at 900 W. 3365 South. Photo: Gephardt Daily

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, October 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said a fatal officer-involved shooting of a man in Salt Lake County in April has been ruled justified.

Two Salt Lake County deputies were also shot during the officer-involved critical incident on April 10. Deputy Joshua Buerke was shot in the face, and Deputy Leland Grossett lost his eye as a result of the incident.

The shooting occurred outside the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office public safety building at 3365 S. 900 West.

Gill said in a press conference Friday at noon: “The use of force by Deputy Joshua Buerke led to the death of Joshua Michael Johnson, who died from his injuries sustained by the result of that force.”

No body-camera footage was recorded during the incident, but video was captured from a stationary source. There were also multiple witnesses at a golf course north of the location.

Buerke and Grossett went to check on a man lying on a strip of lawn, Gill said, north of the east parking lot at the building. The deputies were part of a security detail that patrols the grounds of the facility, which is not only home to the sheriff’s office and the county jail, but also headquarters for the Unified Police Department.

The deputies arrived in a marked Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office vehicle at approximately 10:21 a.m., Gill said, stopped on 3300 South in front of the strip of lawn and got out.

They then made contact with the man, later identified as Johnson, 31. They asked him why he was lying on the ground and Johnson replied he was waiting for the bus, Gill said. There was a bus stop about 300 yards west of where he was lying, Gill said. The deputies asked him to move to the bus stop and Johnson agreed and stood up.

“When Johnson stood up, the deputies observed a handgun magazine on the ground where the man had been sitting,” Gill said. Buerke picked up the magazine, which was loaded, and handed it to Grossett, who put it in his belt “to keep it away from the suspect and assist Deputy Buerke,” Gill said.

Johnson was then asked to put his hands behind his back, so handcuffs could be placed on him. Johnson refused and began reaching for his waistband, Gill said.

The deputies took him to the ground and “struggled with Mr. Johnson, who was putting up a fight,” Gill said. “After struggling with him for approximately 10 to 20 seconds, Mr. Johnson produced a handgun and shot it, hitting Deputy Buerke in the left side of his face and Deputy Grossett in his left eye.” Buerke continued to struggle with Johnson as the latter kept hold of the handgun he had fired.

Buerke then fired multiple rounds at Johnson, which were ultimately fatal.

Additional Salt Lake County officers and officers with other agencies arrived on scene. Both deputies received emergency medical aid and were then transported to area hospitals.

It is protocol to have an outside agency investigate these incidents; in this case, West Jordan Police Department.

“Investigators later determined that Johnson fired a single shot from a stolen semi-automatic pistol,” Gill said.

Gill pointed out that just two days ago, on Wednesday, a press conference was held to address the uptick in gun crime and the proliferation of the use of stolen guns. In this case, the pistol was stolen from a vehicle on March 17, along with an AR-15 rifle.

Buerke fired six or seven shots, Gill said. Grossett did not fire his weapon.  Buerke declined to be interviewed after the event; Grossett did provide a statement.

“It is our conclusion that this was a lawful use of lethal force,” Gill said.

Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera issued the following statement following the press conference:

“Today the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office shared the findings of their investigation into the incident where deadly force was used by a deputy after he and his partner sustained gunshot injuries. I accept these findings as a justified shooting.

“The findings published today will help our office, and the injured deputies, take a collective step forward as we continue to recover from the impacts of this incident. We are grateful that both deputies survived and are doing well. We also recognize that a life was lost and express our condolences to the Johnson family.

“The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the West Jordan Police Department for leading the protocol team who investigated this incident with integrity and professionalism.

“A final note, the investigation found the firearm used to injure our deputies was stolen. Let this be a sobering reminder to gun owners, a stolen firearm is a violent crime waiting to happen. Please properly secure your firearms.”

Gephardt Daily will update this story as more information becomes available.


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