SALT LAKE CITY — The actions of an officer who shot and killed a man who said he had a bomb at a downtown TRAX station were deemed to be justified Thursday.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill notified Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank of the decision in a letter, stating that officer Alma Sweeny's decision to shoot Anthony Kenshiro Mayhew “was justified, given the danger Mayhew presented at the time.”
“Officer Sweeny was justified in using deadly force because he reasonably believed that the use of such force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officers or other persons,” Gill wrote.
Mayhew, 39, came to the attention of police Sept. 27 when he called 911 and KUTV to report that he was on the TRAX station near 300 South and Main Street — across from the TV station’s newsroom — and was armed with a “suicide bomb.” According to Gill, Mayhew threatened to detonate the device unless the chief of police responded to talk to him about his belief that federal agents had been in his home, watching him.
“Specifically, Mayhew stated that the device included a battery attached by wires to 10-15 shotgun shells in his backpack which were also attached to a trigger he held in his hand, and that the device carried a blast radius of 40 yards,” Gill's letter states.
The first officer, Uppsen Downes, confirmed that the man had a red backpack with a black cord coming out of it leading to Mayhew’s right hand. In the man’s hand, the officer said he saw a black device with a button on top and that the man’s thumb was over the button.
Gill wrote that the man told the officer that he didn’t want to hurt anybody, but needed help to “figure this (expletive deleted) out.” Downes was able to convince the man to move his thumb to prevent him from detonating the device accidentally.
Officer M. Lealogata, reported hearing Mayhew threaten Downes not to come any closer, stating that he had an explosive device on him.
“Officer Lealogata further observed Mayhew to be very aggressive, upset and belligerent,” Gill wrote, adding that the officer asked Mayhew why he wanted police help. “Mayhew described what he had in his backpack and stated, ‘If you do not take me seriously and do an investigation on the feds, I will blow this bag up.’”
SWAT officers, including Sweeny, arrived soon after. A commander notified them of the perimeter they should maintain for safety purposes and advised them to not allow Mayhew to leave the perimeter with the device, the report states.
A bomb squad technician told the SWAT commander to tell his officers that if Mayhew approached them, “proper force should be used to stop (him),” Gill wrote. The officer also estimated that the potential bomb’s blast radius could actually be closer to 850 yards.
The officer negotiating with Mayhew withdrew, explaining that he was going to investigate Mayhew’s claims. “Mayhew responded that he understood that he could not leave the area and acknowledged he could see the officers,” Gill wrote. “Mayhew initially sat down but became visibly more upset and aggressive. Mayhew then stood up, collected all of his belongings and turned and took a few steps north, toward the containment line.”
Officer L. Smith, yelled “Police, Don’t move!” loud enough that other officers said they heard the admonishment, the letter states. Instead, Mayhew kept moving, turning to approach Smith and another officer. He did not cross the containment line, but lunged toward the officers, “visibly angry.”
Other officers, including those stationed around the perimeter next to Sweeny, “indicated that they were preparing to fire when officer Sweeny discharged his weapon,” the letter states.
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