SALT LAKE CITY — A Unified police officer who fired a single shot at the tire of a suspect vehicle has been found justified in the use of his firearm.
Unified police officer Morgan Matthews fired one shot at the vehicle of John J. Samora, 21, on May 19 in Kearns. In a letter to Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder from District Attorney Sim Gill, Gill states that Matthew's actions were justified
According to the letter, a Metro Gang Unit bulletin sent out May 18 included Samora on a list of those "most wanted" by law enforcement officers. Just before 2 a.m. on May 19, Salt Lake City Police issued a bulletin about a gray, 1990 Lincoln believed to be driven by a fleeing suspect, a parole fugitive, who was armed and dangerous.
Just before 3 a.m., UPD officers spotted the car in a parking lot at 3365 S. 900 West, Gill wrote.
Matthews said he knew the driver was armed and allegedly "wanted to take out a cop." When they approached the driver, the man's "expression conveyed alarm and the driver began running back to the Lincoln," the letter states. The officer Matthews was with said the man was Samora. That officer, Ryan Stocking, later said he knew Samora from when Samora was incarcerated at the Salt Lake County Jail.
"Officer Stocking said he knew that Samora's criminal history included violent offenses and that Samora was an active gang member," the letter states. "Officer Stocking said he knew Samora was 'in and out of maximum security for getting into fights with inmates fairly consistently and disobeying the rules.'"
When approaching Samora, Matthews drew his weapon.
The two officers repeatedly told Samora to exit the vehicle, but the man did not listen, even as they struck the driver's side window, eventually breaking it, Gill wrote. The man put the Lincoln in gear and began to drive away, prompting Matthews to fire one shot at the rear driver's side tire.
"Officer Matthews said he fired 'hoping to disable the vehicle' and 'prevent a chase' and because he feared for the safety of others. He said he shot the tire to prevent a chase.