MAGNA — Sean Morrison, who was shot and killed during a shootout with police Sunday, was a teenage boy who wanted everyone to be happy.
"He really cares about people and animals and their feelings and he wants everyone to be happy. He's always trying to find ways to be silly with his voice and make people laugh. ... He was just trying so hard to help out everyone," his aunt, Anne Nielsen said Tuesday.
The 15-year-old boy's father, Barry Morrison, who family members said he looked up to, was charged Feb. 23 with 12 felonies, including aggravated sexual abuse of a child, rape of a child and forcible sodomy. The alleged victim in that case was a relative, but not Sean.
"He loved his father. I feel that had a lot to do with his depression," said Sean's grandfather, Wayne Herring. "He was trying to love his dad, because his dad was his hero."
Then, about a week ago, Sean was chased by some boys wielding a knife who cut his face, Herring said. It was an attack that would affect anyone, even if they didn't already have prior problems, he said.
Although family members still don't know what caused Sean to put on a bullet-proof vest and a ski mask, break into his father's gun cabinet, take a .45-caliber handgun, walk into the street on Sunday and shoot at police officers. They believe recent events in his life had had an impact on him.
Three veteran Unified police officers remained on standard paid administrative leave Tuesday pending an investigation into Sunday's shooting. Sean reportedly fired on officers on two separate occasions — once when they had just arrived in his neighborhood and before they had the chance to get out of their vehicles, and a second time after he had taken cover behind a neighbor's car, forcing officers to return fire. The boy reportedly fired multiple rounds at the officers.
Sean was diagnosed as being bipolar and mildly autistic, Herring said. He had been to mental institutions in the past seeking treatment.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, without going into detail, said Sean had undergone a mental health evaluation after engaging in some criminal behavior and has a history of emotional and mental instability. He said the hearts of all his officers go out to the family.
Sean attended Copper Hills Elementary School at one point, but was removed by a parent or guardian prior to completing the third grade in 2006, according to a Granite School District spokesman, and never re-enrolled in the district. It was unknown Tuesday if Sean was home schooled or enrolled in a different district.
His body was turned over to the custody of his mother Tuesday and family members were planning for a funeral, which they tentatively believed would be Saturday.Comment on this story
Herring said what he wanted the public to remember about his grandson is that he wasn't a bad person and he hopes no one will immediately pass judgment on him. His family does not believe he was out to kill anyone.
"It's hard in this world for people to not have prejudice against people, and I don't fault the police for shooting him, because I wasn't there. But Sean is still a good person and I love him and I miss him and I cried a lot," he said.
"He's still a very loving person and always will be."