A West Valley police officer shot and killed an ax-wielding man Tuesday after the man swung at and struck the officer's partner.
Rick Lockyer, 37, 3381 S. Brock St., died about 6:30 p.m. at Pioneer Valley Hospital from a gunshot wound to his chest.Officer James Crowley, a 10-year veteran of the police force, has been placed on routine paid administrative leave while investigators from the Salt Lake County attorney's office and the West Valley City Police Department review the shooting, Chief Dennis Nordfelt said.
Neither officer was injured during the incident.
The officers responded about 4 p.m. to a neighbor-dispute call at Lockyer's address. They asked Lockyer to talk with them, but he refused to open the door, Sgt. Steve Coxey said.
The officers left the home and went to their car at the end of the street, where they radioed and were told that a warrant for Lockyer's arrest had been issued.
Meanwhile, Lockyer began washing the door, mailbox "and anything they (police) touched," according to a neighbor, Penny Child, who watched the incident from her porch.
When the two officers returned to serve the misdemeanor warrant, Lockyer charged at them with an ax, swung and hit one of the officers on the hand, Coxey said.
Lockyer than reared back to swing at Crowley.
"I heard them (police) say: `Put it down, Rick! Put it down, Rick!' and then one of them dropped to his knee and BANG!" Child said.
She said she didn't hear Lockyer say anything to the officers before the shot was fired.
Several West Valley officers, including Crowley, have responded to Lockyer's home "numerous times" over a long-running dispute involving Lockyer and David and Stephanie Bird, who live next door at 3371 S. Brock St.
Lockyer reportedly assaulted Stephanie Bird in the past and vandalized one of her children's bikes, Detective Kevin Nudd said.
"He apparently hit her in the chest some time ago; it's been a long-standing situation," Nudd said.
Tuesday's problems began when Lockyer "came into my yard and started chopping my fence," Stephanie Bird said. "I guess he didn't like my gate."
She called police, hoping they could resolve the situation, but said she was saddened by the outcome and called it "a tragedy."
Neighbors said Lockyer, who lived alone, was especially protective of his property and often yelled at the Birds' four children.
"I've seen him throw garbage cans into (the Birds') yard and break glass on their door," Roma Walton, another neighbor, said. "But he's also a pretty nice guy; he watered our yard when we went out of town."
The county attorney's office is investigating the shooting to ensure the officers "were in compliance with state laws" during the incident, Nordfelt said.
A department shooting board will also convene later this week to analyze the officer's use of deadly force.
"Using deadly force is a traumatic decision for an officer," Nordfelt said. "I'm sure it will affect every employee of the department and their families and impact officers throughout the state."
Crowley's wife, Becky, also a West Valley police officer, directed traffic at the shooting scene while her husband talked with detectives.
History of S.L.-area police shootings
Since June 1988, there have been only four Salt Lake Valley incidents in which police shootings have resulted in civilian deaths, including Tuesday's death:
- Feb. 5, 1990 - Murray Police Sgt. Terry Steed, after being nearly knocked unconscious by a man wielding Steed's own police-issue flashlight, shot and killed Gene Andrew Paul, 29, a Utah State Prison parolee, following an armed robbery at 5768 S. State. After having his car stopped near 300 East and 5900 South, Paul left the vehicle, talked with the officer and then suddenly struck Steed in the face and hit him with the flashlight. Steed grabbed his 9mm semi-automatic handgun and fired three rounds, striking Paul in the leg. When the shots didn't stop Paul, Steed fired three more rounds - grazing Paul's face once and striking him twice in the upper torso. Police later found a gun and mask in the car Paul was driving.
- June 12, 1989 - Salt Lake Police officer Zane Smith, a SWAT team member, shot and killed Ricardo Zarogoza, 29, following a three-hour early morning standoff at Zarogoza's brother's home, 2818 S. Highland Drive. Despondent over family and financial problems, Zarogoza had threatened his brother, police officers and himself with a .45-caliber handgun, firing a dozen rounds. Zarogoza tossed down the gun, then knelt down several times while threatening to pick up the gun and fire at officers, according to a police press statement. After Zarogoza had picked up the gun, and fearing for the safety of fellow officers, Smith fired one shot from his 9mm semi-automatic handgun, hitting Zarogoza in the right side of the chest.
- June 27, 1988 - Salt Lake Police officer J.R. Nelson shot Russell Ray Daines, 21, at 1236 E. Laird Ave., after Daines was chased from 1261 E. Sherman Ave. (340 South) following a bank robbery. Daines eluded police for nearly three hours, while a SWAT team and K-9 units assisted in the search. Seeing Daines emerge from some bushes, Nelson ordered the man to stop and drop his weapon. When Daines raised his arm and pointed an object at the officer, Nelson fired his .38-caliber revolver three times, hitting Daines twice in the chest. The object was later determined to be a belt, which was recovered at the scene along with a watch and gun clip; a gun was found at Daines' residence.The Salt Lake County attorney's office investigated and ruled that the shootings were justified in all three incidents. The officers' actions also were deemed justified by departmental review boards.