Shootout in downtown SLC leaves one dead, two officers wounded

Published: Friday, March 28 2014 8:25 a.m. MDT

Crime scene tape surrounds the Jeep Grand Cherokee that two men where sitting in when they were approached by police officers. A shootout occurred leaving one man dead and two police officers injured early Friday in Salt Lake City on March 28, 2014.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Officers who work the graveyard shift for the Salt Lake City Police Department always back up each other on traffic stops, even if they aren't officially called to the scene.

On Friday, two officers watching each other's back may have saved each other's lives.

"I would dare say they both deserve credit for saving each other's lives," said Salt Lake City Police Chief Burbank said. "In fact, both, as I spoke to them this morning at the hospital, credited the other for saving their life."

Early Friday morning, a traffic stop ended with a shootout on a normally busy downtown Salt Lake City street.

A man who police say opened fire on two officers without warning was shot and killed.

The officers, Mo Tifisi, a nine-year veteran with the Salt Lake City Police Department, and Dan Tueller, an officer who has been on the force for 18 months, were rushed to the hospital Friday morning with gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening.

Tifisi, 40, was hit once in the shoulder and Tueller, 33, once in the upper thigh, said Salt Lake City Police Sgt. Robin Heiden.

Both officers were praised Friday by Burbank.

"I'm extremely impressed with the way these officers handled the situation," the chief said. "Again, we don't celebrate the fact our officers had to use deadly force. But in certain circumstances, when we are left with no other option, as in this particular case, our two officers performed admirably."

Burbank visited both officers in the hospital Friday shortly after the shooting. Tueller "was in quite a bit of pain," he said. Tueller underwent surgery Friday.

Tifisi did not require surgery and was released from the hospital Friday afternoon.

Though Burbank noted it's hard to call a gunshot wound a "minor injury," he expects both officers will recover.

"They're doing well, and they will be OK. Both are in stable condition and recovering from their injuries," he said.

The gunman was identified by police as Christopher Leo Knight, 34, of California.

Knight's body lay on the ground for more than eight hours Friday, just outside the passenger-side door of the vehicle he was in before it was eventually taken to the medical examiner's office.

"The scene has been really slow to process. We've got several different investigations going on," Heiden said, including one by homicide detectives and one by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

The incident began about 2:15 a.m. when an officer stopped to speak to two men in a Jeep Grand Cherokee with Utah license plates on 300 South, just east of West Temple in front of the vacant Zephyr Club.

Heiden did not immediately know if the vehicle was pulled over or if it was already stopped in a parking spot. Information on what prompted the stop and why the officer thought the vehicle was suspicious was also not released Friday.

The Jeep, which had a lot of front-end damage, was covered in dried mud as if it had been off-roading recently.

As soon as one officer stopped, another nearby officer showed up as backup.

"On graveyards, it's just our protocol we will back someone if they go on a traffic stop," Heiden said. "Anytime you're working a graveyard shift, or any shift for that matter, and you're approaching a vehicle, you have no idea what you're going up on, and they don't know what you know, so it's kind of a dangerous situation."

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