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Review board backs Salt Lake police officer in deadly shooting

FILE - District Attorney Sim Gill has asked federal investigators to review the fatal police shooting of a black man in Salt Lake City that has sparked outcry.
FILE - District Attorney Sim Gill has asked federal investigators to review the fatal police shooting of a black man in Salt Lake City that has sparked outcry.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City's Civilian Review Board has determined an officer followed policy in fatally shooting a black man who ran from police in August.

The review posted online Wednesday backs a decision from Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. The panel members and Gill both considered an outside investigation by the Unified Police Department.

The death of Patrick Harmon, 50, sparked outcry from advocates against police brutality and members of his family who said he didn't have to die. They contested the determination that Harmon posed a deadly threat to police officers and noted a knife was not visible in officers' body camera footage.

"It just really hurts the heart to see somebody is that terrified and that afraid of being arrested," said Jade Arter, an organizer with Utah Against Police Brutality. "He was running away from officers, and he was shot several times."

Arter said she was dismayed but unsurprised by the decision of the 11-member board. Her group has advocated for greater oversight of police and a more independent review panel.

On Aug. 13, Officer Clinton Fox fired at Patrick Harmon, 50, three times late in downtown Salt Lake City.

Police originally stopped Harmon after they said he road across all six lanes of a street without a required light on his bike. They determined a judge had issued a warrant for Harmon and attempted to take him into custody when Harmon bolted, according to the report.

Body camera video shows Harmon apparently pivoting toward the officer, the board wrote. Fox told investigators he was afraid for his and his colleagues' lives when Harmon threatened him with a knife later recovered by investigators who found it on the ground.

Amid the public outcry, Gill asked the FBI to review the case for possible civil rights violations. The prosecutor has said he stands by his decision that Fox had reason to fear he might die.

Harmon's nephew Lamar Ross, of Ogden, has said he struggles to reconcile his uncle's death and questioned the district attorney's determination. Ross said he had a better understanding of why the officers fired after meeting with Gill last month, but added that his family was consulting with attorneys.

Police Chief Mike Brown has said he stands behind Fox. A spokesman for the department, detective Robert Ungricht, said Brown didn't have a comment Wednesday but would review the report alongside an internal police investigation that still is pending.

Brown's department said in October that Fox was back at work behind a desk after a period of paid leave, but he was not on patrol.

Ungricht declined to estimate when the department's own investigation would wrap up, but said he believed it would be soon.