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Protesters want answers, transparency in officer-involved shootings

Published: Monday, Aug. 18 2014 6:15 p.m. MDT

Updated: Tuesday, Aug. 19 2014 6:45 a.m. MDT

People march near the Public Safety Building during a rally for Dillon Taylor in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Taylor was shot and killed by police on Aug. 11, 2014.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Aaron Swanenberg came from the funeral of his friend, Dillon Taylor, to join others on the street across from the Public Safety Building Monday to protest his death and demand answers from police.

"Dillon's being laid to rest as we speak," he said. "We deserve answers as a people. It's been a week, but they've still given us no answers."

Taylor, 20, was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 11 in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store at 2102 S. State. His family has said he was not armed.

Police have not released the identity of the Salt Lake police officer involved in the shooting, which is being investigated by South Salt Lake police. They have not provided details about the shooting, namely whether Taylor was armed.

The protest and demand for transparency comes with the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed man who was shot and killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, as a backdrop to the conversation on the militarization of police forces continues across the country.

South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller said Monday he had no new information to release. He said the identity of the officer or officers involved have not been released for the protection of the officers and their families. But he would not elaborate on any threat.

Police previously said officers responded to a report of a man "waving a gun around." When police arrived, they found three men leaving the convenience store. One of the men, later identified as Taylor, reportedly matched the description of the man reported in a 911 call.

South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Darin Sweeten said three officers gave Taylor verbal commands to reveal his hands, but Taylor failed to comply and was "visibly upset." Taylor was subsequently shot and died at the scene.

Scott Simons organized Monday's protest, bringing signs that he's had since his daughter was killed in an officer-involved shooting Jan. 9, 2013. The shooting of Kelly Simons was determined to be justified by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, which determined that she was fleeing from officers to avoid arrest and had been accused of using force against an officer just days before.

But Simons said he still doesn't understand why his daughter was killed in the incident. He said every time he hears of someone unarmed being shot by police, it reopens a wound and motivates him to continue his efforts to increase awareness.

"It's just crazy — unarmed people getting shot — it's just wrong, no matter how you slice it," he said. "The police have to be aware that people are starting to be more resistant to this. The whole country is becoming aware of this problem."

Marlee Kanosh drove from Cedar City to attend Monday's protest. She said she had always assumed that she could trust police, until her brother, Corey, was killed in an officer-involved shooting in October 2012.

"I had no idea this type of people existed until I became one of them," she said of the group of families who gather for their loved ones killed in officer-involved shootings.

Kanosh has watched the coverage of Michael Brown and the surrounding outrage with a level of frustration that some cases garner more of a public outcry than others, and because many Utahns ignore the issue in their own state.

"Utah needs to be aware that it goes on here, too," she said.

Kim Kasey was holding a sign she made that read: "Nothing to see here, Folks. Move along," which is how she interprets the police's response to Taylor's death. She said she lives near 2400 South and State Street, which is just a few blocks from where the shooting took place.

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