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Officer is on leave after W.V. shooting

His gun went off, hitting man in the shoulder

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WEST VALLEY CITY — A three-year veteran of the West Valley Police Department is on routine paid administrative leave after his gun discharged and grazed the shoulder of a man he believed was under the influence of alcohol.

"It'll probably be short paid administrative leave," West Valley Assistant Police Chief Craig Gibson said, because the shooting initially does not appear to be intentional.

The unidentified officer is a detective. He was off-duty, in his personal vehicle, returning home from vacation with his wife when the incident occurred, Gibson said.

About 10 p.m. Monday, near 5600 West and 3000 South, the detective passed a vehicle that was weaving in and out of traffic lanes. He believed the driver was under the influence of alcohol and notified the police department, Gibson said.

The detective followed the driver into the parking lot of Albertson's Food and Drug, 3420 S. 5600 West. The detective confronted the driver in hopes of detaining him until backup officers arrived. The man allegedly was belligerent and did not believe the plainclothes detective was a police officer, Gibson said.

The 26-year-old man allegedly continued to act belligerent, even as the detective showed him police identification. The man allegedly lunged at the detective's knees, trying to tackle him. He missed, Gibson said.

The man then placed his hands in his pockets, which made the detective nervous about what he might pull out. The officer pointed his handgun at the man. When the man pulled his hands out of his pockets, he had nothing, Gibson said.

Shortly after, the man rushed toward the detective.

"The guy came close enough, the officer had to push him away to try to get some distance," Gibson said.

The detective used both hands to push the man away, including the hand with the gun. The gun discharged, Gibson said.

The detective may have fired the gun, if his hand was in the trigger; or, the gun may have gotten caught in clothing and fired, Gibson said.

The man was taken to Pioneer Valley Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. Clinicians drew blood from the man and will test it to determine the alcohol level, Gibson said. He was then taken to the county jail.

The man was booked into Salt Lake County Jail for investigation of assault on a police officer, resisting arrest and driving under the influence, Gibson said.

West Valley police and the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office will investigate the shooting, Gibson said.

E-mail: lhancock@desnews.com