ROY — Two Roy police officers were justified in the fatal February shooting of 38-year-old a man outside a Texaco gas station, the Weber County Attorney's Office has decided.
Roy police fired 16 shots in six seconds, including two with the suspect's own gun, in the Feb. 21 confrontation that ended in the death of Nicolas Sanchez of Layton.
Roy City Attorney Heather White said in a Tuesday statement the decision affirms the police officers did what they had to do, even if the outcome was tragic.
"The officers did what they are trained to do and what we expect them to do: protect themselves and others against violent and irrational behavior," White said. "Because of their actions, no one but Sanchez was injured that night.”
Annette Olsen of Layton sees it differently. She came to see Sanchez as a son after he worked with a contractor on an addition to her house and helped care for dogs in her pet-boarding business while living with her family.
"They didn't know who he was. They didn't know if he had a gun permit. They just grabbed his gun and gunned him down," she said, adding she had expected the officer who chased Sanchez to be charged.
Sanchez previously had been charged with possession of a weapon by a dangerous person, unlawful detention and theft by receiving stolen property, state records show, but charges were later dismissed.
He had served five years in federal prison for having a gun in violation of a prior conviction, she said, but she knew him to be nonviolent and helpful, attending church and mowing neighbors' lawns. After prison, he got a full-time job as a forklift operator and moved out, she said.
"He was finally getting his life together," after growing up without parents and in gangs, she said.
The pair of officers previously described by White as "younger" were on administrative leave during the investigation. The city has not released their names.
On Feb. 21, the two Roy officers responded to a call reporting that a man was loitering and acting suspiciously at the gas station at 4395 S. 1900 West.
Body camera videos from the officers released in March show the officers confronting Sanchez at the store's front door, with one telling Sanchez to step forward.
When officers told Sanchez to keep his hands out of his pockets, he lifted up his hoodie, saying he had nothing, but an officer spotted a firearm, saying, "you've got a gun on you."
One of the policemen reached out to grab him, but Sanchez started to run.
The officer chased him into the dark parking lot and a shot was fired, followed by 15 more shots in three seconds.
White said the officer that followed Sanchez wrestled with him over his gun, which was pointed at the officer's face. The other officer, who was looking on, fired at Sanchez.
The policeman who was struggling with Sanchez was able to wrestle the gun away and used it to shoot at Sanchez, unsure if the suspect was firing at him with a different weapon. White said the officer tussling with Sanchez was fighting for his life.
Earlier that night, Sanchez had gotten into an argument with his girlfriend and was killing time at the convenience store in order to let her cool off, Olsen said.
Olsen said she believes the officer's concern that Sanchez had a second gun was dubious.
"He slipped up a little bit but that did not deserve a death sentence," Olsen said.
Utah Against Police Brutality agreed, saying the officers "recklessly" escalated the situation. The group accused the county of using "twisted logic" in reaching the justification and called for increased community oversight of police departments.