What happened in the 38 seconds surrounding the shooting of an 18-year-old Magna man is still unclear, despite a decision by the Salt Lake County attorney's office to clear the deputy sheriff who fired the shot.
County Attorney David Yocom announced Wednesday that deputy Vaughn Allen wouldn't be prosecuted in the Aug. 7 shooting of Stevie Manzanares. The decision came after a county attorney's office investigation and a review by a panel of prosecutors from the state and three counties.A key point of information in the investigation was what Manzanares was doing with his left hand, according to Assistant Attorney General Michael Wims, one of the panel's members.
Wims quoted Chico Chavez, who was in the car with Manzanares, as saying he wondered what Manzanares was doing with his left hand. Wims said both Allen and reserve Deputy Kent Mattingley were also concerned about Manzanares' left hand.
The commission's report says, "Chavez told the members of the commission that he wondered what Stevie was doing, and he could no longer see the beer can that Stevie had."
But in an interview with the Deseret News, Chavez said he never told the committee that and he never thought that.
"I never said that," Chavez said. "I said I couldn't see his left hand. I didn't even think of what he was doing."
Sheriff's dispatch recorded a 38-second time span from the time the two deputies exited their car to the time they called for an ambulance.
Chavez said everything happened so fast and he heard only "stop."
"They didn't give us any warnings," Chavez said. He said he saw the police surrounding the car and raised his hands.
"I was just thinking we were in trouble," he said. "I didn't think they were going to shoot."
Evidence in the commission's report indicates that the two deputies may have given Manzanares conflicting commands. According to the recommendation issued by the commission, "(Mattingley's) written and verbal statement indicate that he shouted, `Get your hands up where I can see them.' " He said he shouted it twice, according to the report.
Mattingley was approaching the Camaro on the driver's side, while Allen was shouting at Manzanares "Don't move" as he saw that Manzanares had what he believed to be a gun in his left hand, the report said.
When Manzanares continued to raise his hand, Allen said he shouted "Don't" again, and when Manzanares continued to bring his hands up, Allen fired his gun. Medical reports indicate Manzanares was looking at Mattingley when he was struck by the bullet, the report said.
Manzanares, who remains in fair condition at LDS Hospital, couldn't be interviewed for the investigation.
Capt. Dave Bishop said sheriff's office policy on the use of deadly force echoes what state law allows.
"Our policy requires us to use the force that is reasonable and necessary to effect an arrest or protect one's life," Bishop said.
State law says, "A peace officer, or any person acting by his command in his aid and assistance, is justified in using deadly force when . . . the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person . . . If feasible, a verbal warning should be given by the officer prior to any use of deadly force . . . "
Allen had been involved in a high-speed chase two weeks before he shot Manzanares where an armed suspect rammed his vehicle. In a statement to the commission, he said he thought Manzanares had intentionally rammed his car the night of Aug. 7.
Allen told the commission, "I knew without a doubt that was a gun. Just by his actions and everything else, everything pointed toward him having a gun."
Bishop said he's been made aware of some threats against deputies but couldn't comment on the nature of the threats. In 1991, there were 59 assaults on police officers in the sheriff's office.
Yocom said he will recommend to West Valley City that Manzanares not be charged in the beer theft.