SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 17, 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 June 10 in Pioneer Park was justified.
West Valley City Police Department carried out the investigation into the shooting, in accordance with protocol.
The man who was shot has been identified as Rezek Yaqub Yahya, 39.
Gill said the incident began at 8:36 a.m. Thursday, June 10, when dispatch received a 911 call from a witness saying a woman had been stabbed at Pioneer Park, the statement said. The woman later told officials she asked for a lighter for her cigarette, which made the man “very angry,” Gill said. The woman sustained serious injuries to her arm and stomach and was bleeding heavily.
Medical teams from SLC Fire arrived at 8:44 a.m., Gill said. Due to the severity of the woman’s injuries, they immediately began lifesaving efforts instead of waiting for police to arrive.
Two SLCPD officers were dispatched on an agency assist for SLC Fire at 8:43 a.m. Both arrived at 8:46 a.m., police said. As the officers approached the scene, witnesses and fire personnel pointed out a possible suspect who was still in Pioneer Park.
The two officers walked toward Yahya, the statement said. Almost immediately the suspect, who had been sitting beneath a tree, stood up. One of the officers saw the man had a knife in his hand and told the second officer he could see a knife.
As the officers continued walking toward him, one of the officers issued three separate commands to put the knife down, Gill said. Yahya did not respond.
“Mr. Yahya began to walk towards the officers, still holding the knife,” Gill said. “The officers stopped and began backing up.”
One of the officers then called out to the other officer for a Taser.
Yahya then began to run directly toward one of the officers, holding the knife as he ran, Gill said. “Both officers pointed their guns toward him and continued to give verbal commands to ‘drop it,’ ‘drop the knife’ and ‘stop.'” These verbal commands can be heard in the video above.
The man continued running toward the officer with the knife in his hand, Gill said. Both officers fired their handguns; the subject was shot and then fell to the ground within a few feet of the officer he was charging toward, who then tripped and fell. Yahya still had the knife in his right hand. After several commands to drop the knife, he eventually let go of it.
Officers requested medical assistance over the radio, and less than two minutes later fire department paramedics, who were on scene treating the stabbing victim, came to render medical aid to the man. Yahya was declared deceased on the scene.
Gill said the time between when Yahya started to run and the first shot was fired was four to five seconds. The protocol investigators found that Yahya covered some 108 feet in six seconds from where he was by the tree until he fell to the ground.
Both officers were interviewed and provided a statement to officials. There were also multiple other witnesses whose statements were taken. Three shots were fired by one officer, and one shot was fired by the other. Yahya was hit twice; the medical examiner determined that either of these shots would have been fatal.
Gill said both officers were wearing body cameras. Only video from one officer was released; the other officer’s camera did not record for an unknown reason.
“Our conclusion was that it was not unreasonable for the officers in this situation to use deadly force, and it was reasonable for them to be in fear for their life and the safety of others as well,” Gill said. No charges will be filed against either officer.
The female stabbing victim was transported to an area hospital in critical condition.
Later on the day of the incident, June 10, Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown praised the actions of his officers and the bystanders who rendered aid to the injured woman.
Audio recordings of the 911 calls can be heard below: