PROVO — Matt Frank Hoover had no intention of going back to prison, and every intention of having a shootout with police, according to charging documents.
"It has become clear from the evidence that the defendant was not going, did not intend to go, back to prison or to jail. His intention was to die by suicide by killing a police officer,” Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said on Wednesday.
Even Hoover's ex-wife told investigators that he "talked daily about not going back to prison and getting into a shootout with the police and that they would 'go out' like the characters in (his) favorite movie, 'Natural Born Killers,'" according to charging documents.
The last post on Hoover's Facebook page was made on Jan. 5 at 11 a.m. The post, which has since been removed, was a derogatory message toward police in all capital letters, the charges state.
Less than 12 hours later, police say, Hoover exchanged gunfire with Provo police officer Joseph Shinners and killed him.
Wednesday, Hoover, 40, who was last known to reside in Fillmore but was homeless at the time of his alleged crime, was charged with aggravated murder, a capital offense. If convicted he could face the death penalty.
Hoover is also charged in 4th District Court with assault on a police officer, theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, all second-degree felonies; plus failing to stop for at an officer's commands and two counts of drug possession, third-degree felonies.
Prosecutors have requested Hoover be held in the Utah County Jail without bail.
On Jan. 5, officers from the Provo and Orem police departments were attempting to arrest Hoover, who was spotted in a pickup truck in the parking lot of Bed Bath and Beyond, 50 W. University Parkway in Orem.
Hoover had two warrants out for his arrest and had allegedly made threatening comments toward police that he did not want to go back to jail.
"We had heard from other people that Hoover had made threats and wanted to basically shoot it out with police officers,” Orem Police Chief Gary Giles said Wednesday.
Officers surrounded Hoover's truck, approaching from both the driver's side and passenger side. Police gave Hoover commands to surrender, but he disobeyed them, according to a police affidavit filed in court.
Another officer reached into the truck through the passenger door to try and pull Hoover out. Hoover, however, "put the vehicle in reverse, and backed into a police vehicle. Hoover then put the vehicle in drive, drove forward sideswiping a storefront, then drove the vehicle (west) through a parking lot before coming to a stop," the report says.
When the vehicle stopped, Shinners, 29, tried to help the officer on the passenger side get Hoover out of the vehicle. That's when Hoover shot Shinners once on the left side of his chest, and Shinners returned fire, striking Hoover once in the abdomen, the affidavit states.
Shinners was wearing a bullet-proof vest, but the bullet hit him in an area that was not covered. At first, other officers didn't realize Shinners had been shot. But after he stumbled away from the truck and kneeled on the pavement on one knee, other officers quickly recognized something was wrong. Shinners was rushed in a police car to a local hospital where he later died from his injury.
Hoover was in a hospital for nearly two weeks before he was released and booked into the Utah County Jail.
The gun Hoover used was reported stolen in December 2017, according to the affidavit. One of Hoover's associates later told police that Hoover referred to the .380 pistol as the "Purple People Eater" and the "Purple Monster."
"They said Hoover kept the firearm in his back pocket and would not go anywhere without it. They also stated Hoover routinely made comments about not going back to prison and stated he would 'shoot it out' with police," the affidavit states. "Hoover made the comment that the next time he was pulled over by police, he was going to shoot to kill and hoped he was killed."
Orem police also engaged in a chase with Hoover on Nov. 1 but called off the pursuit due to safety concerns. It was during that incident that investigators learned from Hoover's ex-wife that "Hoover had made statements to her indicating he would rather 'suicide by cop' than go back to prison," according to the report.
Giles said Wednesday that he was pleased that Hoover would be spending time incarcerated.
"It at least gives me some satisfaction to know that while he did survive his injuries, he won’t get his first choice, at least yet. He will have to suffer through the prison or the jail that he so desperately did not want to return to. We can only hope through the legal system he will get the justice that is deserved,” he said.
Leavitt also had strong words concerning Hoover. However, he declined on Wednesday to say whether he would seek the death penalty, noting that his office has until 60 days after Hoover is arraigned to make that decision.
"The question of the death penalty is premature at this time,” he said. "It is our intention to follow a process that is professional, that is dignified, but is very deliberate in sending a message the defendant will indeed pay for this crime, No. 1. And No. 2, our society will no longer be endangered by him.
"There are many, many, many considerations to make when deciding whether to seek the death penalty. And all of those, we’ll take all of those in account,” he continued.
In announcing formal charges, Leavitt also said that as a small way of honoring Shinners, the case would be given a number of FO-3310, which stands for Fallen Officer followed by Shinners' badge number. Furthermore, Leavitt said the case would be referred to in his office as "The officer Joseph Shinners murder case" rather than a title that made reference to Hoover.
"In the climate in which we live, in which we have criminals who take pleasure and delight in killing and injuring police officers, who gain notoriety by harming those who protect us, we have chose as a county attorney’s office to give no platform to this defendant to be honored by those who would honor him, to have notoriety as this process moves forward,” he said.
During his comments, Leavitt asked the community to keep Shinners' widow and child in their prayers. He also praised both Orem and Provo police for their professionalism on the night of Shinners' death, noting that the officer and Hoover were being treated in adjacent rooms at the hospital.
"I cannot say enough as the Utah County attorney of the professionalism and the dignity of law enforcement in this community. And I salute them,” he said.
Hoover's initial appearance in court is scheduled for Monday.
Hoover has an extensive criminal history of mostly drug-related crimes.
In 2017, he was convicted of drug distribution. In January 2018 he was sentenced to 120 days in jail for violating his probation. During a progress report in drug court in April, Hoover was found to be noncompliant, according to state court records.
Another warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 5 for failing to comply with the terms of his probation on a conviction of felony joyriding.11 comments on this story
Hoover’s criminal record dates back to at least 1997. Over the past 20 years, he has been convicted of felony drug possession, attempted forgery, retail theft, failing to respond to an officer’s commands, theft and burglary, court records indicate.
Both Orem and Provo police said Wednesday that their focus remained on healing now that the funeral is over and charges have been filed.
"(We're) just now starting to feel the full effects of what happened to Joe a couple of weeks ago,” Provo Police Capt. John Geyerman said Wednesday.
Giles said that in addition to Shinners receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously, additional awards would be handed out to other officers soon.