WEST JORDAN — The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has determined that the fatal shooting of a knife-wielding man by a West Jordan police officer in October was legally justified.
But during a press conference on Thursday to announce his decision, District Attorney Sim Gill said questions and "observational facts" being raised by the public about police tactics and how officers respond to critical situations can no longer be ignored.
Diamonte Riviore, 22, was shot and killed by officer Brian White on Oct. 11 while White was responding to a domestic violence call.
Riviore had gone to the West Jordan home of his ex-girlfriend, who is also the mother of Riviore's child, according to police. At some point after Riviore arrived, the woman sent a text to a family member with the code word "fish," signifying that she needed help, said West Jordan Police Sgt. JC Holt. Three West Jordan police officers responded.
The woman was able to answer the door and let the officers in. As they were entering the apartment, White said that the woman whispered to him, "He still has the knife," according to Gill's final report.
The officers went through a bedroom and made contact with Riviore who was in an adjoining bathroom. He was holding a knife with a 10- to 12-inch blade.
After refusing to put the knife down, two officers deployed their Tasers, which were ineffective. At that point, White said he saw Riviore "stick his hand out (of the bathroom door) with a knife in his hand, slashing out in, like, a stabbing motion outside the door frame," according to the report.
Riviore opened the door a second and third time and started "advancing out towards us from inside the bathroom and at that point, I felt if … I don't engage the threat, you know … I feared he was going to stab and kill myself or (the other officers)," White said. "I fired two rounds and he moves back into the bathroom, closes it and he locks it and then after that … I don't hear anything."
A still image taken from the body camera video shows Riviore had the knife raised above his head in a striking motion just as White shot.
White fired two rounds that struck Riviore in the chest and torso from about 5 feet away. From the time the officers entered the bedroom to when shots were fired was less than 30 seconds, according to Gill.
While the shooting was ruled to be legally justified, Gill acknowledged in his report that there are questions the public would likely have, such as why the officers confronted Riviore in such a tight space if the woman was no longer in immediate danger, and whether the decisions made by the officers increased the likelihood that deadly force would occur.
"We invite law enforcement professionals to carefully consider the facts as we now understand them to determine whether there were other possible effective options, and to consider how the officers' actions may have narrowed the range of possible effective options to resolve the situation before them," Gill wrote in his report.
While Gill said he offered no judgment about the officers' actions, he does believe important questions are being raised by the public.
"Those are broader questions. And I think those are certainly questions we have been asked," he said. "And I think we have an opportunity and a responsibility to continue to learn from what happens."
West Jordan Police Chief Ken Wallentine, who also attended the press briefing, said he welcomes the questions, noting that many of them are the same ones officers ask themselves.
"They are the kind of questions that, frankly, we constantly raise in public safety. We are always looking to do things in different ways and better,” he said. "We look at whether we can change tactics, at whether we can change or improve our procedures, whether there’s equipment available to us."
In this situation, Wallentine said White had dealt with Riviore previously and was able to resolve those previous situations peacefully. White believed he could do it again, the chief said, but had no idea he'd find himself in a tight space in a cluttered room.
"We didn’t have Superman X-ray vision. We couldn’t see into the room before they went in. The officers didn’t know the circumstances they were going into,” Wallentine said. "Officer White sincerely believed — and we have every reason to understand that his belief was well-founded — that he’d be able to dialogue with this individual. He’d done it before, and he had a better outcome before, and that’s frankly what he hoped for.
"In hindsight, could there have been other alternatives? Yeah, I suppose we could speculate all day long about what would have happened if Mr. Riviore had made some different decisions that particular day and not violated the (protective) order … in the first place,” the chief continued.
He called the incident "not a happy situation. This is not a happy outcome."
Both Wallentine and Gill reached out to Riviore's family prior to the start of Thursday's briefing.
A week prior to the shooting, Riviore was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail and accused of assaulting the same woman and her child and threatening to stab her.
Riviore "allegedly grabbed a lamp and threw it at the victims, hitting the primary victim in the face. The lamp also hit the child victim in the face," according to the police affidavit.
Riviore then grabbed a knife and told the girlfriend, "See this? I will (expletive) stab you with it if you don't stop," the affidavit states.
In February 2018, Riviore was arrested for aggravated assault and domestic violence at the same address against the same victims. At that time, Riviore held a "knife to the victim's throat while he held the victim against the wall," according to a police report. He then choked the woman with his hands, police say.
In 2017, Riviore was charged with 911 abuse and with not appearing in court. It was during that time that Riviore sent a letter to the judge in the case explaining that he was back in California.
"I've been homeless since before my charges. When I was charged it was due to an attempt of suicide by cop which I decided not to go through with. When I was arrested I was sent to a mental hospital," his letter states.
Riviore further went on to write that he "was desperate to kill myself" at that time.4 comments on this story
A judge eventually sentenced Riviore to suspended jail time and ordered him to receive mental health treatment. But in a letter to the court on May 24 from Valley Behavioral Health when the court was checking up on Riviore's progress, the facility responded, "We don’t have anyone in our system under that name."
Help for people in abusive relationships can be found by contacting the YWCA's Women in Jeopardy program at 801-537-8600, or the confidential statewide Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online at udvc.org.
Correction: Photo captions in a previous version incorrectly stated Diamonte Riviore was shot on Oct. 11, 2019. The shooting occurred on Oct. 11, 2018.