SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Nov. 26, 2019 (Gephardt Daily) — Salt Lake City police officers under investigation for their alleged role in the death of a suspected shoplifter back in May will not face criminal charges.
The decision clearing the officers was formally disclosed in a letter Tuesday from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill to Salt Lake County Sheriff Rosie Rivera and SLCPD Chief Mike Brown.
“After conducting an Officer Involved Critical Incident (OICI) review, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has determined that the May 6, 2019 in-custody death does not warrant criminal charges,” Gill said
Salt Lake City resident Mischa Ryan Cox, 30, died after fighting with store employees and bystanders outside the Ace Hardware at 612 E. 400 South, police reported at the time.
One of the first officers on scene handcuffed Cox after finding him unconscious and not breathing in the hardware store’s parking lot.
“From the evidence of which we’re aware, SLCPD officers and personnel who arrived on scene did so after Mr. Cox was either dead, or after he sustained life-threatening injuries. We’re not aware of any evidence that tends to show any SLCPD personnel did anything related to Mr. Cox’s death or any circumstance that may have caused or contributed to his death.”
The case was originally classified as an Officer Involved Critical Incident out of concerns that Cox was further injured when he was handcuffed.
Unified Police Department handled the investigation, as it is protocol that OICI incidents are handled by an outside agency.
Gill’s letter to Rivera and Brown added:
“We agree that the nature and circumstances of the matter were not fully known at the time of incident, and we agree that a protocol call-out and response and the ensuing independent investigation and our review were warranted and appropriate, and we commend SLCPD for invoking the OICI protocol and commencing the independent investigation into the incident.
“We reviewed the materials in this case, especially the video recording evidence that shows individuals restraining Mr. Cox in the Ace Hardware parking lot. Video recordings from the scene show individuals detaining Mr. Cox on the ground. Eventually, an SLCPD police officer arrived and put handcuffs on Mr. Cox while Mr. Cox was on the ground. The officer assessed Mr. Cox and spoke briefly to a civilian witness/participant in the detention.”
The officer again assessed Cox and found him unresponsive and not breathing, the letter said. The officer began chest compressions and other lifesaving efforts as other officers arrived on scene and called for medical personnel.
The letter goes on: “Although it’s difficult to determine the moment when Mr. Cox died, it appears Mr. Cox was either dead when police arrived, or had sustained fatal injuries making his impending death essentially inevitable. It’s clear, however, that no SLCPD personnel used force or took any action that could have caused or contributed to Mr. Cox’s death.”
The letter said the matter was reviewed as an in-custody death “out of an abundance of caution.” It goes on: “We nevertheless find no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by and SLCPD personnel and decline to file a criminal charge against any SLCPD personnel.”