SLCo Sheriff Rosie Rivera issues response to parents’ complaint in 2018 police shooting death of Riverton man

Jason Robert Whittle was killed in an officer involved shooting on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. Photos: Salt Lake County; Gephardt Daily/Steve Milner

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah, Oct. 23, 2020 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera has released a statement reacting to a complaint filed by the parents of 26-year-old Jason Whittle, who was shot and killed by a Unified Police officer in 2018.

Whittle was suffering a mental health crisis, and his mother called dispatch from their Riverton home for help with her son. Lawyers for the family say Whittle had left his parents’ home carrying a small dog and a butter knife, and was met with flashing police lights and officers with guns drawn, yelling confusing instructions.

His mother yelled at police not to hurt Whittle, she said, but he did not put down the knife and was standing close to his mother.

According to police, Whittle was holding a knife near his mother’s throat before he was shot and killed.

District Attorney Sim Gill ruled the shooting was justified and declined to charge the UPD officer who fired. The parent’s complaint, announced Wednesday, was in reaction to that decision.

Two days later, Rivera has sent out her written response.

“Loss of a family member, a child in particular, under any circumstances is tragic,” she wrote, in part. “I understand that the family of Jason Whittle continues to grieve his death, and while my words cannot take away their pain, I do express my deepest condolences.

“After interacting with the family at the time of this incident, it was apparent to me that they, like many other families in our community, are good people swept up in the challenges associated with supporting a loved one experiencing mental illness, substance use disorder, or both. Unfortunately, the outcome of this family’s struggle ended in loss of life.”

The letter, which can be read in full below, goes on to say such cases are increasing nationwide and present challenges to law enforcement officers. It then notes that the Salt Lake District Attorney’s Office found the officer’s actions justifiable.

“I stand by the actions of Broadhead,” she wrote, adding that “a woman was being held at knifepoint by a man who had threatened to kill anyone who entered the residence, was allegedly mentally ill, high on methamphetamine and described as ‘out of control.’

“Characterizing this justified shooting as an execution is unequivocally inaccurate. Being justified does not make the situation any less tragic for everyone involved.”

Below, find Rivera’s full letter and the one issued by the DA’s office.

To hear the calls Sheriff Rivera refers to, click here and here.

Whittle lawsuit response

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DA Whittle


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