WEST VALLEY CITY — The family of a 49-year-old man killed in an officer-involved shooting Thursday said the man had a liver condition, but wasn't looking to die.

"He was trying to live, that's what I don't understand," Don Ashworth said of his brother, Kent Ashworth. "He was fighting for his life — to live. They didn't say he was terminal. They said he could live a long life. He didn't give any signs of wanting to die or anything like that."

Three West Valley police officers fired shots in the Thursday afternoon incident that left Kent Ashworth, of West Valley City, dead, West Valley Police Sgt. Mike Powell said. Police indicated that "several" officers encountered the armed male near 2805 South and 3600 West, which is the parking lot of the West Valley City Public Works Department.

"Officers gave multiple verbal commands to the armed male to drop the gun without compliance," Powell said, adding that the three officers who fired their weapons have been placed on paid administrative leave.

The incident is under investigation by the police department as well as the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

Investigators have not provided any additional details as to what prompted officers to shoot, only that "shots were fired" after Kent Ashworth failed to comply with officers' commands. Powell said a handgun was recovered from the scene and "investigators will continue to work diligently throughout the weekend putting the facts of the incident together."

Don Ashworth was frustrated by the lack of information. He said he wouldn't blame the officers if they felt they had no other option but to use lethal force, but that was unclear to him.

"I just don't know the situation," he said. "I wish the officers would come out in front of it. … They never said if my brother even put off a shot. They never said he shot at them, just that he had a gun."

Don Ashworth said his brother moved to Utah from Colorado about one year ago so that their father could help Kent Ashworth with his liver condition.

"My father said they came and searched the house and didn't find anything illegal in the house," Don Ashworth said. "Like I said, (Kent Ashworth) was sick. He was in liver failure and so he wasn't a criminal. He had no warrants out for his arrest. He hasn't been in trouble, so I don't know what led up to the officer shooting him and using deadly force. "

A witness who asked to not be identified said she saw the entire incident, because she works in the area. She said Ashworth pulled into the parking lot just before 4 p.m., followed soon after by two West Valley City police officers. When Ashworth exited his vehicle, he was holding a gun.

The woman said Ashworth would occasionally raise his hand, palm up, with the gun facing out, but not necessarily at police. She said the man remained calm as officers asked him, multiple times, to put the gun down.

She reported that Ashworth didn’t even respond to police, but when more officers arrived at the scene, he fired a shot across 3600 West. It was then, she said, that officers opened fire.

The time frame provided by the witness matched that given by police, but Powell declined to comment on whether Ashworth had, in fact, fired a weapon. He said police were wary of "so-called witnesses" and were waiting to provide more details until they had put all of their information together.

Meantime, Don Ashworth was adamant that his brother was neither a hardened criminal nor someone with a death wish.

"I don't want (people) to think that some criminal was trying to kill a cop, because that's not what my brother is," he said. "He was a loving brother, loving grandfather … he's just a normal kind of guy. He didn't do much of anything but deal with his health issues."

Contributing: Shara Park

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