WEST VALLEY CITY — He refused to remove his hand from his pocket despite repeated commands. Then, his right hand came up in a quick motion with his elbow near his shoulder.
Police responded by shooting three times, killing the man.
Those last moments of Elijah James Smith's life are shown on body camera videos released Tuesday by West Valley police. The videos were recorded by three officers looking for Smith, who had barged into a random house where three young children were home and alone.
Smith, 20, of South Salt Lake, was shot by police on April 8 inside a garage at 3551 S. Jenelles Bay. Officers had been chasing Smith for a theft at a nearby phone store when he ran into the house. Three children, ages 13, 10 and 8, were inside with no adults.
"This is a routine theft call that becomes a possible home invasion investigation in a matter of moments as a small boy answers the front door and tells the officers that someone had just entered their residence," West Valley Police Lt. Kent Stokes said Tuesday while explaining the videos as he showed them.
The three officers chasing Smith initially didn't know whether Smith lived in the house. But when a young boy answered the door in "distress," it was clear that Smith was not an invited guest, said West Valley Police Chief Colleen Jacobs.
She said the 13-year-old told the officers that Smith had "aggressively" entered the house and that the boys were "scared."
The children later told police that Smith had walked through their house without saying anything except that he wanted a drink, the chief said. He then went into the attached garage.
As the officers opened the door that led from the kitchen to the garage, they had their guns drawn. Immediately, they spot Smith hiding in a corner of the garage and order him to put his hands up, the video shows.
"From the time the officers opened the garage door until the shots were fired was approximately 24 seconds. They told him 15 times in those 24 seconds to show them his hands and to come out from hiding. And he had his hands out at one point. He chose to conceal both his hands and his person as he moved behind the car," Jacobs said.
Two officers had their guns pointed at Smith from the top of an entryway looking down into the garage, while one drew his Taser and tried to position himself to Smith's left side.
Smith is seen in the video holding his left hand up, but he keeps his right hand in his pocket. He does not speak to the officers.
"I said, let me see your hands," one officer is heard yelling repeatedly.
As Smith moves toward a car parked in the garage, which officers perceived as taking cover, the video appears to show him continuing to fidget with something in his pocket. He then quickly takes his right hand out his pocket and raises it.
Stokes described it as his arm coming up "in a rapid draw-stroke motion."
One officer with a gun and the officer with a Taser fired at the same time. The officer with the gun shot three times, according to police.
"As Mr. Smith continued to fail to comply with orders and he made that draw-stroke, both officers perceived that threat at the same time and they both fired," Jacobs said.
Investigators say the item in Smith's pocket was a "modified" screwdriver that had a black item on the tip. Jacobs said the screwdriver was modified to make it look like something else, but she could not say if it was designed to look like a gun. Why Smith had the modified screwdriver and why he raised his arm quickly were unknown, she said.
"My officers followed protocol," she said, basing the conclusion on what she saw on the body camera videos.
The officer who fired the shots remained on paid administrative leave Tuesday pending the outcome of the officer-involved shooting protocol investigation. Although the investigation had not been completed as of Tuesday, Jacobs said she wanted to release the videos for transparency.
On Saturday, friends and family members of Smith held a protest in front of West Valley City Hall, claiming the use of deadly force was excessive and demanding that body camera footage be released. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for funeral expenses.
"I am sad for their loss. It is a very unfortunate incident Mr. Smith lost his life during this incident," Jacobs said on Tuesday, offering her condolences to his family.