We have brave men and women in our police department that put their lives on the line every day. To have someone walk into a sanctuary, so to speak, into a public safety building and pull a gun — it's unconscionable. —West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder
WEST VALLEY CITY — A man who police say "wanted to die suicide by cop" four months ago was shot in the front lobby of the West Valley Police Department Monday after allegedly pointing a gun at officers.
Just before 8:30 a.m., James Ramsey Kammeyer, 39, walked into the front lobby of the police station and asked the officer working at the front desk to come out from behind his enclosed, secure area to talk to him.
"The officer said he was behaving somewhat suspiciously in that he had his hands in his pockets and his behavior was such that it alarmed the officer right off. The individual continued to ask the officer to come into the lobby and speak to him further. When the officer wouldn't approach him, he removed a weapon from his pants pockets," said West Valley Police Sgt. Jason Hauer.
"It's not normal that people come in to the lobby and say, 'Hey, come talk to me.' They're not afraid to approach the officers at the glass and the records clerks there and speak to them. This gentleman's behavior was abnormal for regular business."
The officer and a records clerk called for assistance and veteran officers already in the building came to the lobby area to help, Hauer said.
At some point during the confrontation, an unidentified officer, from about 15 to 20 feet away, fired multiple rounds. "When the officer involved felt that the threats were such that he needed to take action, he fired," Hauer said.
Kammeyer was hit twice in the right arm. He was treated at a local hospital and was later booked into the Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of attempted murder, aggravated assault, possession of a weapon by a restricted person, aggravated burglary and threats against life or property.
Hauer said he couldn't say whether the gunman fired his weapon because it was "too early" in the investigation. Hauer also did not know if Kammeyer saw the other officers approach him because he said he seemed to be concentrated on pointing his gun at the officer at the front desk.
Hauer said "multiple rounds" were fired by the officer, but couldn't say exactly how many.
Detectives attempted to interview Kammeyer, but he declined to speak with them. "He has invoked his Miranda privilege and is not going to offer any statement," Hauer said.
Acting West Valley Police Chief Anita Schwemmer said the shooting was frightening, even for trained officers. She offered her gratitude for the bulletproof glass and metal plating funded by the City Council and installed just six months ago.
"Those remodeling changes were done to that lobby for this specific purpose, because, of course, there had been attacks around the nation on other police departments," Schwemmer said.
Just outside the police station, where there is a TRAX platform between it and the West Valley City Hall, a train had just pulled up when the shooting occurred. Passenger James Tabler said he watched as an officer outside the building moved quickly toward the lobby.
"I watched a cop walk up with his gun drawn. He got to the brick wall, and all of a sudden I saw five shots come out of the building," he said.
Bullet holes were visible in the glass of the police department lobby Monday. Tabler said he heard five to six shots.
TRAX passenger Bonnie Barkhimer also heard the shots.
"Then we heard what sounded like firecrackers and I jumped over the seat into this lady's seat and asked her if she saw what we thought we saw, and people came swarming out of the police station," she said. "Everybody on the train was ducking and covering and we had no idea where the bullets were coming from."
No one on the train was injured. All of the passengers were asked to give a recorded interview with an investigator after the shooting and to have their pictures taken, Barkhimer said.
Yellow police crime scene tape surrounded the perimeter of the police station Monday as detectives scoured the parking lot looking for bullet slugs. A pile of what appeared to be clothing was left on the sidewalk in front of the lobby. Bomb-sniffing dogs also checked the perimeter, including the TRAX train.
Kammeyer's motorcycle was found parked on the far north part of the City Hall parking lot, just a short walk away from the police station. Search warrants were being executed Monday on the motorcycle as well as Kammeyer's residence and a second vehicle.
"We're trying to establish motive and figure out what is going on and why this guy came to the police department. We're also looking for any notes he may have left to give us better information as to that purpose," he said.
Court records list a West Jordan address as Kemmeyer's current residence. Hauer would not say where the search warrant was served.
The incident isn't the police department's first dealing with Kammeyer.
In December of 2012, officers responded to a report of a suicidal man. Kammeyer had cut his wrists and "told officers at that time that he wanted to die suicide by cop," Hauer said. The man said he was a registered sex offender and his wife was taking his children away from him.
Hauer could not verify if that was Kammeyer's motivation for going to the police lobby Monday. It was his understanding that Kemmeyer has been "somewhat estranged" from his wife recently.
Utah court records show Kammeyer was arrested by West Valley police in 1998. He pleaded guilty to sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony, in 1999. Kammeyer received a suspended prison sentence and was placed on three years' probation. As part of his sentence, he was ordered to undergo sex offender treatment and register as a sex offender.
West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder said the shooting was "very sobering."
"We have brave men and women in our police department that put their lives on the line every day," he said. "To have someone walk into a sanctuary, so to speak, into a public safety building and pull a gun — it's unconscionable."
Asked if this could be connected to the dismissed criminal cases investigated by the department amid corruption allegations, Winder said anything is possible. He said the city successfully prosecutes thousands of cases each year, any of which have the potential of making people upset at the city.
"All it takes is one person crazy enough to pull a gun inside a public safety building and we get an incident like this," he said.
Ninety-eight state and federal criminal cases investigated by West Valley police have recently been dismissed because of credibility issues surrounding allegations of corruption within the department’s Neighborhood Narcotics Unit. Nine officers who worked in that now-disbanded unit are on paid administrative leave while investigations by the FBI and the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office are underway.23 comments on this story
An internal investigation uncovered problems within the unit that includes an undisclosed amount of missing drugs and money, the theft of "trophies, trinkets or souvenirs" from drug-related crime scenes, the use of GPS trackers without first securing a warrant, improper use of confidential informants, improper handling of evidence within the drug unit, as well as officers taking small amounts of cash and other items from seized vehicles.
Contributing: McKenzie Romero