COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS — "Drop the gun! Drop the gun! Drop the gun now!" a Cottonwood Heights police sergeant can be heard in body camera video yelling at the teen suspect.
Just moments later, the officer fires a single shot, hitting the 17-year-old boy in the abdomen.
"Sir, why did you reach in your pants?" the officer asks the boy in the video as he handcuffs him.
The videos from an early morning officer-involved shooting on Sept. 3 were released Monday by the Cottonwood Heights Police Department.
The incident began as a routine traffic stop at 3 a.m. But when the two occupants of a vehicle sped away, it resulted in a chase that ended when the teenage driver crashed his car on I-15 near 1300 South. In his body camera video, the sergeant, whose name has not been released, is heard telling dispatchers that a male and a female juvenile are out of the car and running down the off-ramp at 1300 South.
As the sergeant follows, he finds the teens under the freeway overpass at 1300 South. The girl has stopped running. But the 17-year-old black boy is still walking. The officer, believing he saw a gun, gets out of his patrol car yelling at the boy to "drop it."
Although a gun was recovered, investigators have not said whether the teen was actually holding a gun in his hand.
"Drop it now. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now or I’ll shoot you,” the officer orders at gunpoint.
As the teen sits on the ground and raises his hands above his head, the officer orders him to roll over onto his stomach. It's at that point that the boy seems to be moving his hands near his waistband.
"Do not move. Don’t move," the sergeant yells.
"I’m not moving sir," the teen replies.
"Don't. Don't. Don't," the sergeant continues to yell in quick succession before firing one shot.
After firing the shot, the officer orders the teen to "stay down." He then radios to police dispatch, "Suspect reached for his waist, shots fired."
"What were you reaching for?" the officer asks the boy.
The boy is still conscious and alert after being shot and is able to communicate in the video with the sergeant and backup officers who arrive on scene. After putting the boy in handcuffs, the officers immediately start giving the boy medical attention.
The teen claimed he was not carrying a gun.
"I'm just trying to call my parents. Trying to get my phone to call my parents," he is heard saying, and later reiterates to police, "I need you to call my parents right now, let them know what's going on."
But Cottonwood Heights Police Lt. Dan Bartlett said investigators at the scene did find a small .22-caliber handgun in the boy's pants.
The teen was taken to a local hospital where he underwent surgery. He was released about a week later, Bartlett said. The boy, whose name has not been released, has since been charged in juvenile court with fleeing and illegal possession of a firearm.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office is investigating the case to determine whether the shooting was legally justified.
Cottonwood Heights police administrators feel confident the shooting was justified. So much so that the sergeant has already been allowed to return to regular duty and the department released the body camera video to the public on Monday, something that doesn't typically happen until the district attorney's office has completed its investigation.
Bartlett said his department wanted to release the videos to the public "in the interest of transparency," and to show not only what the officer was faced with, but also highlight the life-saving efforts the officers at the scene did for the boy.
"We want to be able to get this out as quickly as we could. The D.A. has the stance that he has on the release of the videos. But the chief really wanted to get this out. We thought it was a great video to share with the public to show how these things happen and the events that transpired, and it kind of gives the officer’s view of what’s going on,” he said. "We’re not out here trying to kill people despite what you see and hear all the time. That’s not what they were trying to do. The video clearly shows they were trying to save this young man's life and provide him care, even though they had just been through this event."
Bartlett said the sergeant who fired the shot "absolutely, he thought his life was in danger."
"I’m grateful that no one lost their life. I’m grateful that our officer showed compassion when dealing with this young man with their life-saving efforts," he said.