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Holladay Journal

Holladay police shooting rattles community

Nov 30, 2020 02:25PM ● By Zak Sonntag

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]

A man was shot by Unified Police in Holladay after a motor vehicle accident escalated to a physical altercation with police. The incident began around 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 when a motorcyclist rear-ended a truck and fell to the ground at the intersection of 4500 South and 2300 East. A UPD officer was fueling a squad car at the Chevron at the same intersection as the accident happened. The officer approached the accident to see if the man was injured and an altercation instantly ensued, according to one eyewitness who asked not to be named.

“I heard the crash. Then I looked and saw the man running away. [The police and the man] started fighting in the street. They knocked him over. They tried to tase him, but I don’t think it did anything, because he pushed the officer down and ran back to grab a gun that had fallen in the street,” the witness said. “That’s when the cop shot him.” 

Another witness, Lucy Smith, who lives on the street where the incident took place, offered a similar account. “I heard multiple gunshots and I ran out and saw a guy was lying face down in the middle of the road. A bunch of cops were all running around fast. There was a school bus on the corner when they flipped him over. Before long they loaded him on a gurney and into an emergency car,” Smith said.

The two officers involved in the initial altercation had just left a “roll call” briefing at the Holladay precinct, which is less than a block away, and from which myriad additional officers were able to quickly respond. 

One of the first officers on the scene was Precinct Chief Justin Hoyal.

“I’ve responded to a few incidents involving shootings and it’s scary. There is risk. But we’re concerned for the officers involved, the public and even the suspect. When I got there I immediately began rendering aid to the suspect,” Hoyal said. “Everyone that does this job knows there are risks and there are dangerous situations we can be involved in. But they all want to serve the community and make it better.”

Officer involved shootings have potential to generate public unrest. Police have suffered losses of public trust in many parts of the country in recent years, in part as a result of instances of use of force by officers whose official reports get contradicted by civilian cellphone video. In the Sept. 17 Holladay incident, cellphone video captured the event and has since circulated widely. The video offers no obvious reasons to believe UPD officers acted unlawfully. 

“Cellphone footage is helpful in these kind of cases. Investigators will always scour neighborhoods to get as much information about an incident as they can in order to build the big picture of what took place,” said Hoyal.

The video was shot by an employee of the nearby Jiffy Lube, who was standing in the open bay of the car-service garage when the accident happened.

One of the managers at the Jiffy Lube store in Holladay, named DC, explained, “We had to shut the store down after that. The whole street was blocked off. I think the workers felt a little down after seeing the incident,” DC said.

Law requires that officer involved shootings be investigated by outside agencies. The Sept. 17 UPD shooting is being investigated by SLCPD. The event rattled the community and will not be forgotten by witnesses.

“It was super scary. It sucked. I cried,” said Smith, who works for Salt Lake Community College. “Still, I feel generally like Holladay is a safe, great neighborhood.”

(As of press deadline, the suspect is alive and recovering from injuries.)