SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 24, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Friday said the use of deadly force in a fatal officer-involved critical incident on Feb. 6 in Kearns was justified.
Salt Lake City Police Department carried out the investigation into the shooting, in accordance with protocol.
The victim was identified as Dennis Denham, 60, of Kearns, officials said at the time.
Unified Police Department responded to a report of a domestic incident in which a man was said to be holding a gun to his 15-year-old grandson’s head and threatening to kill the boy.
The call was received just before 8 p.m., and officers from UPD and West Valley City were dispatched to the home at 5706 W. China Clay Drive, Gill said in a press conference Friday afternoon.
Gill said Denham’s wife and their four grandchildren, ages 10 to 15, resided at the house and were home at the time of the incident.
“Mr. Denham, who had been drinking alcohol for three days, got into a physical and verbal altercation with his 15-year-old grandson over the use of a laptop,” Gill said. “Mrs. Denham came downstairs and stood between Mr. Denham and the grandson, and the arguing continued.” Denham then told the grandson that if he came near him “he’d kill him,” Gill said.
Denham then went to a safe and retrieved a 9 mm Glock model 17 handgun. His wife called 911 and told them her husband had a gun and was threatening to shoot their grandson. Denham then raised the gun towards his grandson and the grandson grabbed the firearm and forced it out of his hand, Gill said.
At some point, the magazine fell to the ground and investigators later determined it was loaded with a cartridge in the chamber.
Denham then went to the safe and came back with a revolver, Gill said. His wife then told the grandson to get the other children outside, and get in her car. She then exited the residence.
“Mr. Denham then locked the door behind them, locking them out,” Gill said. His wife stayed on the phone with dispatch and the children went to a neighbor’s house for safety.
Three UPD officers arrived south of the residence and began approaching on foot.
“As they approached, the officers heard two gunshots fired from the house,” Gill said. One shot was fired into the air and one at Denham’s wife.
The suspect then came out of the house, still holding a gun. Officers ordered him to drop the gun but he did not comply, Gill said. He then went back inside the house.
Other agencies including West Valley Police Department and West Jordan Police Department arrived on scene and repeated commands were given for Denham to exit the home, Gill said.
Denham then briefly came out of the door two more times, still with a gun, and “he would yell at officers and return inside,” Gill said.
SWAT and a negotiation team were notified and responded to the scene, and containment was set up.
Approximately 44 minutes after police first arrived, Denham opened the front door.
“Mr. Denham then fired two shots with at least one shot in the direction of the officers to the north,” Gill said. Officers at that time returned fire. Denham fell to the ground. Officers ensured his hands were empty then began life-saving measures. He was pronounced deceased on scene.
Denham sustained three gunshot wounds, Gill said.
No officers were injured during the incident.
Inside the door where Denham had fallen officers found a 10 mm Glock model 20 pistol under which was a spent 10 mm casing. Officers also found a 357 magnum Ruger GP 100 revolver on the floor nearby. Both firearms were loaded.
Three officers fired shots, two from West Valley City and one from UPD, Gill said. The officers themselves did not provide testimony, but numerous witnesses provided information. Gill added that officers that were wearing body-worn cameras were crouching behind vehicles as the incident occurred at a residence, so footage was limited.
It was later determined that the two WVCPD officers collectively fired their rifles at least nine times and the UPD officer fired his rifle two times.
“Our conclusion is that the officers have the affirmative defense of justification of use of force,” Gill said.
There was no recent history of any domestic violence at the home.