Davis County Lawyer Won’t Endorse Police Shootings If Officers Don’t Talk to Investigators | News, Sports, Jobs

By MARK SHENEFELTStandard-Examiner

Davis County District Attorney Troy Rawlings in his Farmington office on Monday March 19, 2018.

FARMINGTON – The prosecution’s examination of a fatal police shooting in Farmington last year will remain open until one of the two officers who fired decides to speak to investigators, the county prosecutor said. Davis, Troy Rawlings.

On December 13, 2020, a Utah Highway Patrol Soldier and a Farmington Police Officer shot a man who slammed into his car with one of their own, then got out and walked towards them with a knife, according to incident reports. Robert Joseph Evans, 27, died at the scene.

The Davis County Critical Incident Team investigated the shooting, a process that occurs after law enforcement uses lethal force. The protocol team’s findings are reviewed by Rawlings’ office to determine if the use of force was appropriate. In the Evans case, Rawlings ruled on May 6 that the actions of the Farmington officer were justified.

Asked for an update on the case on Thursday, Rawlings said the Farmington officer agreed to speak to protocol team investigators, but the UHP soldier declined, citing his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination. “Unless he does cooperate and until he does cooperate, this case (involving the UHP soldier) remains open and open,” Rawlings said.

Officers who use lethal force and decide not to speak to investigators is a trend, frustrating to Rawlings and other prosecutors, but a development that is another consequence of the scrutiny of law enforcement since the United States. Ferguson, Missouri, protests in 2014, a police attorney said. . On the outskirts of St. Louis, the fatal shooting of a black teenager by a white officer sparked weeks of unrest and helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement.

“After Ferguson things changed very quickly. We started to see prosecutors more willing to charge officers, ”said Bret Rawson, general counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police of Utah. “Generally speaking, in 2021, it is not recommended for me to tell a client in a use of force case that they should voluntarily report to the protocol team.”

But Rawlings said officers who decline talks with the protocol team on the advice of their FOP lawyers also don’t write incident reports of their actions. Reporting is a standard step in any police matter. “It creates tension in their role as a police officer,” Rawlings said.

The problem for officers, Rawson said, is that in many cases of lethal force, an officer gives two interviews afterwards. One is for the protocol team and the other is for an internal investigation by his agency, called the “Garrity” interview. In an interview with Garrity, officers are assured their statements will not be used against them in subsequent criminal proceedings, according to a 1967 Supreme Court ruling. Officer refusing to respond or not responding honestly to questions after receiving a warning from Garrity is subject to the suspension or revocation of his certification as a peace officer.

After Ferguson, the media and others began obtaining transcripts of Garrity’s interviews via public document requests, creating a “legal boost” for officers and their lawyers, Rawson said. If an agent gives two interviews and they do not match, an agent could be exposed to lawsuits, loss of accreditation, or civil liability.

“Imagine you’re in a fight and being asked to tell the story again weeks later,” Rawson said. “Is it going to be the same story?” It is not a question of deception, it is a question of memory. Who can remember things perfectly in dynamic circumstances such as life and death? “

Rawson is a reserve police officer. He said other lawyers in his firm Sandy are former police or reserve officers and all are certified in use of force science.

“Officers almost always want to make statements,” Rawson said. “They want to tell their story. It is very cathartic, although it is often difficult. These officers were the victims. Someone did something to them, somebody pointed a gun at them, and they feared for their own life or the lives of others, and they must have done this really terrible thing.

Rawlings said that when an officer is not questioned, his office will always lay criminal charges against the officer “if there is a clear and obvious reason to charge them.” In the absence of an interview, he said: “I am not going to put our office in an avalanche position and to justify the use of force every time an officer does not cooperate with us and does not draft his statements. reports.

Rawlings said he would never accuse an officer of failing to submit to an interview as it would violate the officer’s constitutional rights. “Our only remedy is to keep the file open” on the issue of the use of force, he said.

Another problem, Rawlings said, is that when a suspect survives a police shootout, the testimony of the officer who used the force is required for the prosecution.

Rawson said that while he and other FOP lawyers may advise against protocol talks, that is the client’s decision, and some are moving forward. He said that in Salt Lake County of late, the only officers charged after use of force incidents were those who had submitted to interviews with the protocol team.

“There is an exposure for an officer who has been involved in a use of force situation, such as a homicide case by any individual, by an individual making statements” to police investigators, said said Rawson.

A Woods Cross police officer was fired in August and later charged with aggravated assault. He said two burglary suspects were trying to run him over, so he fired several shots at their vehicle. But police and prosecutors said an investigation showed the suspects’ vehicle was backing up, not heading towards the officer.

In the Farmington case, the names of the agents involved have not been made public. Rawlings said the UHP soldier then left the state agency and is now a Farmington officer.

The county prosecutor’s investigation report in May said the two officers involved in the shooting initially refused to speak to investigators. The Farmington officer, accompanied by his lawyer, finally met with county investigators on April 28.

The report says the two officers and a second officer from Farmington were investigating a car theft at 121 S. 650 West when a southbound four-door sedan driven by Evans crashed into a Farmington police car.

The report says Evans, a resident of Farmington, got out of the car, pulled out a knife and walked over to the soldier, who began yelling orders at him. The soldier fired and Officer Farmington, standing to his right, also fired. The officers both carried Glock handguns.

Investigators questioned three neighboring residents about the shooting and also spoke to Evans’ father. Elder Evans told investigators his son had a history of mental illness.

About a year earlier, a South Ogden officer who fired a fatal shot as police attempted to stop a driver at the end of a chase refused to speak to investigators. The Weber County District Attorney’s Office then cleared the officer of wrongdoing, saying the available evidence showed the officer feared for his life and that of another officer. This driver’s family has sued South Ogden City in federal wrongful death action.

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