Every day, police officers willingly brave dangerous situations that have the potential to end in injury and even death. In cases where suspects are threatening physical violence, officers must defend innocent bystanders and protect their own lives, sometimes with lethal force. But what if a suspect isn’t armed? Three officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department have been placed on administrative leave while investigators probe the death of a man who was fatally shot outside of a 7-Eleven in South Salt Lake earlier this week. Some reports say the man was brandishing a handgun, but other accounts say the man was unarmed.
SLCPD Under Investigation by South Salt Lake PD After Deadly 7-Eleven Shooting
The Salt Lake City Police Department is no stranger to controversy. Earlier this year, SLCPD Officer Brett Olsen stirred up national outrage after shooting Salt Lake City resident Sean Kendall’s non-aggressive pet dog Geist. More recently, the department was selected to participate in a federal sexual assault study after the public demanded answers for hundreds of shelved and unprocessed rape kits dating all the way back to the 1980s. Now, three of its members are on administrative leave as the South Salt Lake PD investigates an incident which took place earlier in the week.
On Monday night around 7:00 P.M., a man whose identity has not been publicly released was fatally shot in a confrontation with three officers outside of a 7-Eleven convenience store on South State St. in South Salt Lake. Officers responded to a 911 call saying the man was displaying a handgun, firing shots after the man reportedly became agitated.
At first, it seems unlikely that the person who placed the original call to 911 could have been imagining the weapon. However, the man’s relatives, along with several witnesses, are saying that he wasn’t armed when the confrontation took place. One witness even recalls a 7-Eleven employee stating the man simply entered, made a purchase, and left.
What is known for certain is that the man who was killed was accompanied by two peers. Officers described the men as Hispanic teenagers, possibly in their twenties. The two additional men were taken into custody for questioning by police, but have not been placed under arrest.
Witnesses Say Victim of Fatal Shooting Was Unarmed
“It was very sad to see the two young men who had lost their friend and they kept calling him to wake up and respond and he didn’t,” says eye-witness Rick Munoz, who was at the 7-Eleven at the time of the incident. “I was sitting on the side of 7-Eleven,” Munoz recalls, “when I saw three young males come though. By the time they got to the front of the store, officers pulled in patrol cars and tell them hands up.”
“I heard two shots, hoping they were fireworks,” remembers a witness who has only been identified by the surname of Schuyler. “Blood everywhere, all over his face, everywhere. I was able to talk to the 7-Eleven employee and I asked her if she saw anything or if there was anything going in the 7-Eleven,” he adds. “She’s like, ‘I have no idea. They were in here buying stuff. They walked out. The cops were waiting for them.'”
Tony Naure was another witness to the shooting. For Naure, the events he watched unfold on Monday evening have left him with some disturbing questions.
“Was the guy actually pulling something out of his jacket?” Naure wonders. “What if he doesn’t even have a gun? The man was killed. What if he does have a gun? Was there a better way to take the guy out without actually killing him?”
Investigators with the South Salt Lake PD are tasked with answering the same questions.
While additional information regarding the incident is still being sought, officers stated they have not confirmed whether the man was actually armed with a weapon at the time of the altercation. Police have also reportedly been unable to confirm whether the man was in fact reaching for something in his jacket — an ambiguity reflected in witness Naure’s recollections. (“Was the guy actually pulling something out of his jacket?”)
Investigators are primarily relying on a combination of eye-witness accounts and 7-Eleven surveillance footage to unravel precisely what occurred that evening. So far, no definitive conclusions have been reached. For the time being, the three officers involved will remain on paid administrative leave while South Salt Lake investigators dig for concrete answers.
Police officers must respect your legal rights during procedures like interrogation and arrest. If you have been charged with committing a crime or feel that your Constitutional rights were violated, aggressive legal representation can help. To schedule a completely free and confidential legal consultation, call Salt Lake City criminal defense lawyer Darwin Overson at (801) 758-2287, or contact our law offices online today.