The Salt Lake County deputy sheriff who shot a Magna man almost six weeks ago is going back to work after being cleared by the department's shooting review board late Thursday morning.
The decision to put Deputy Vaughn Allen, 27, back on the streets after the Aug. 7 shooting of Stevie Manzanares was unanimous, said Jim Potter, a sheriff's spokesman.The shooting occurred during an apparent beer theft about 11:45 p.m. outside Smith's Food and Drug Center, 4100 S. Redwood Road. Manzanares and another man, Chico Chavez, waited in the car while a third man, Steve Early, entered Smith's.
As deputies converged on the store, Allen and reserve deputy Kent Mattingley pulled in front of Manzanares' car. Both deputies approached the car with their guns drawn.
Allen told the county attorney's office he thought Manzanares had a gun in his left hand. While he said he yelled for Manzanares to "stop," Mattingley told him to put his hands up. Allen said he saw a flash of light and was sure the teen had a gun.
"I just saw that gun in his hand and I thought I was going to die," Allen was quoted as telling the county attorney's review committee. Manzanares wasn't armed but instead held a silver beer can in his left hand.
While some local Hispanic groups believe the use of weapons during a theft is excessive, the review board found the action to be reasonable.
"We have officers shot and killed in family fights . . . in simple approaches," Potter said. "What he (the officer) has to go with, is what's happening between him and that suspect. We certainly don't
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want our officers to let their guard down just because it's a beer theft. It could really cost someone if they work from that premise."
In the last 25 years eight deputies have been shot, one of those fatally. In the same time frame, eight civilians have been shot by deputies. One of those was fatal.
The deputy who killed a civilian was prosecuted for homicide and acquitted by a jury, said Capt. David Bishop.
A number of Hispanic activists say the shooting of Manzanares was racially motivated and called for Allen's dismissal and prosecution. The county attorney's office cleared Allen of any criminal wrongdoing about a week ago.
A day after Allen was cleared of criminal charges, Sheriff Aaron Kennard announced his office would be forming a citizens advisory committee. That committee would have input in developing department policies.
The sheriff's review board's job was to decide if the shooting was within department policy. Potter said they looked at things like the type of ammunition, Allen's weapon, whether or not Allen had qualified with his weapon, and his decisionmaking process.
"The shooting review board is not an additional criminal investigation," he said. Potter said the public affairs office hadn't received any public response as of Thursday afternoon.
Calls to the Manzanares home went unanswered Thursday night. The Justice for Stevie Manzanares Committee plans to picket the sheriff's office at 6 p.m. Friday.
Diane Sanchez said the Manzanares family supported the protest and was grateful for the community support. Manzanares' was shot in the head just behind his right ear. The bullet exited his left cheek, severing an artery and breaking his jaw. He was in fair condition Friday in LDS Hospital.