- The video above contains disturbing content.
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah, July 22, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill on Thursday ruled a fatal officer-involved shooting in West Valley City in August 2019 was justified.
West Valley City police officials previously shared bodycam video from the Aug. 23 shooting in their DUI processing area, which can be seen above.
Michael Chad Breinholt died at the scene after an altercation with police in the small basement room. After a scuffle to gain control of a gun, one of several WVCPD officers in the room fired the fatal shot.
Gill said Breinholt arrived, allegedly intoxicated, at a business at 2900 S. Redwood Road at approximately 7 p.m. and WVC Officers Atkin and Lane were dispatched to the scene. Breinholt’s girlfriend, who worked at the business, told officials that the suspect was drunk and had taken “a bunch of pills,” Gill said.
The officers found Breinholt walking away from the business, and placed him under arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol, because he had driven his girlfriend’s car to the business.
At about 7:40 p.m., Breinholt was taken into custody and transported to the DUI processing room in the basement of West Valley’s City Hall building, at 3600 Constitution Blvd.
The suspect refused a breath test to determine his blood alcohol level, and so officers began the process to obtain a search warrant to perform a blood draw, Gill said.
WVC Sgt. Tyler Longman responded to assist the officers with the process. While officers were processing paperwork related to the investigation, Breinholt complained of chest pain, and West Valley City Fire Department arrived on scene and examined him, but nothing was wrong with him. Breinholt then slid off his chair, and subsequently began to chew on the power cord of the intoxilyzer machine, Gill said.
Breinholt, who was still handcuffed, also told officers he had a gun, even though he had been searched when he was arrested.
“Mr. Breinholt slipped off his shoe, reached down, and turned his torso to successfully pick up his shoe, with one hand while still being handcuffed, and what became apparent to us in our review is that his arm is fairly skinny, and the handcuff was sliding up his arms,” Gill said. “He started to stand up and said he had a gun in his shoe.”
He was then made to sit back down and held the shoe behind his back. Officers were concerned Breinholt might do something with the shoe, and one of the officers took it away from him.
“Mr. Breinholt turned his torso, and with both of his hands still handcuffed, grabbed the handle of Officer Atkin’s firearm and began pulling on it as though he was trying to draw the holster,” Gill said. “Upon realizing that Mr. Breinholt had grabbed his firearm and was pulling on it, Officer Atkin yelled ‘Holy F, he’s got my gun, he’s got my gun.”
Atkin then reached over to prevent Breinholt from drawing the gun. Another officer then joined the struggle and Breinholt continued to pull on the handle, Gill said.
Longman then entered the room and for a moment, the three officers struggled with Breinholt, Gill said. Longman hit Breinholt in the face, but he continued to pull on the gun, he added.
“As officers struggled to control the situation, they pushed Mr. Breinholt to the far corner of the room, where some furniture was placed,” Gill said. “The officers were unable to remove Mr. Breinholt’s hands from Officer Atkin’s gun.”
At some point, Longman said to Breinholt,”You’re about to die, my friend.” Longman reached for his firearm and drew it from the holster. He then pointed his firearm at Breinholt’s head and fired. The suspect fell to the floor, where he died instantly, Gill said.
Gill then showed body-worn camera footage from the officers in the room when Breinholt was shot. Gill said that additional body camera footage showed Longman started saying “you’re about to die my friend” before he entered the room. He added that Longman’s gun was holstered when he entered the room.
Gill also said that Breinholt allegedly did not release on Atkin’s firearm through the entire incident until the suspect was shot. Atkin also reported that the amount of force that was being exercised by Breinholt against the holster was “tremendous.”
Gill said that Longman “was faced with a deadly force situation in which it appeared possible that, unless Mr. Breinholt was stopped, he would not stop grabbing Officer Atkin’s gun from his holster.”
Gill said his decision had to focus on whether Longman’s actions were legally justified under Utah law.
He added: “I think it is a legitimate question: How did we get there? What led up to this. But I do not get to consider that in my analysis.”
Longman was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident pending the results of an independent investigation by the Salt Lake City Police Department, but returned to work a few months later.