2 Murray police officers cleared for firing shots at suspects
SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has cleared two Murray police officers who fired 18 shots between them during two unrelated incidents.
In the incidents from Jan. 5 and Jan. 8, Gill found both Murray police officers Trent Pearson and Sean Malouf were justified in firing their weapons because the officers reasonably believed their use of force was necessary to prevent death or bodily injury to themselves or others.
Gill sent two separate letters detailing his findings to Murray Police Chief Peter Fondaco.
The first incident took place Jan. 5 at a Scaddy's Restaurant, 5430 S. 900 East, when a cashier was approached by someone with a gun and told to open the register, according to Gill. The suspect, described as a white male between 20 and 30 years old wearing fake glasses, a fake nose, a fake mustache and a top hat, was given some money and fled in a gray vehicle.
Murray police officer Sean Malouf responded to the reported robbery and started a patrol of nearby businesses in the area.
It was dark, but he saw what he thought was an old man in a trench coat with glasses and facial hair in a parking lot at 6150 S. 1300 East, Gill wrote. The officer stopped his vehicle and went to confront the person, quickly realizing it was not someone elderly.
Malouf suspected it was the suspect from the robbery at Scaddy's and ordered the person to put their hands in the air. Gill said the suspect raised one hand, but refused to remove the other from a coat pocket. They then took off running through the parking lot.
Malouf, wearing a police uniform, identified himself as an officer and commanded the suspect to stop. He pursued and decided against tackling the suspect, who jumped into the passenger seat of a car parked at 6200 S. 1300 East, Gill wrote.
The officer said he could not see into the vehicle, but noticed a red light centered on him that he believed was a laser sight on a weapon. He then realized the suspect he had been chasing was pointing a gun at him "over the top of the vehicle," Gill wrote.
The officer began backing away while ordering the suspect to drop the weapon. The officer said "he was pointing it at me in such a manner I felt threatened and thought I was going to be shot," the letter states.
When the suspect failed to put the gun down, the officer fired while retreating. He said he saw a muzzle flash from the suspect's weapon around the same time and Malouf fell backwards unsure at first whether he had been shot.
He took cover under a truck and a woman got out of the driver's seat still training a flashing red light at him. The woman and the suspect then fled on foot. Gill wrote that Malouf fired 16 times, but that "neither Malouf, the suspects, nor any other citizens were struck with any of the discharged bullets from either officer Malouf or the suspect."
The second incident was just days later, on Jan. 8, when a 911 call came in from an armed man at 4543 S. Creekview Drive who said he didn't want to live. Eight Murray police officers responded and found Shawn M. Campbell standing behind a sport utility vehicle in the driveway of the home.
Gill wrote that several of the officers tried to speak to the man, who was holding a handgun pointed at the ground, but he was unresponsive. Several officers then commanded Campbell to drop the gun, but the man remained unresponsive.
Some of the officers, including Trent Pearson, started to approach the man, who then started to move toward the driver-side door of the SUV. Pearson said Campbell was moving closer to him and eventually repositioned himself so that his gun was "pointing directly at me," according to the letter.
"I knew that something had to be done and I couldn't just stand there and keep giving verbal commands," Pearson said in the letter. "He'd been given verbal commands for 30 seconds, 40 seconds before then. He had plenty of time to comply, but I thought he was going to shoot me."
According to the letter, Pearson personally told the man to drop the weapon at least once, and then fired twice. Gill wrote that other officers also reported seeing Campbell point his gun toward them and Pearson before Pearson fired his weapon.
Campbell was struck in the shoulder and abdomen and was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
Campbell was interviewed at the hospital and said he "could not remember details about the event as he had been drinking that evening," according to Gill. The man said he remembered a phone call, being outside and being hit "really hard" before falling down.
The district attorney determined that both Pearson and Malouf were legally justified because both men felt they had to fire their weapons to prevent serious injury or death to themselves or others.
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