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ATF head cleared in fatal Sandy TRAX shooting

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Bryan Keith Liles

Bryan Keith Liles

Salt Lake County Jail

SALT LAKE CITY — The head of Utah's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives was legally justified when he shot and killed a man near a Sandy TRAX station in March, according to a new report released Wednesday.

On March 13, Bryan Keith Liles, 31, of Spanish Fork, was fatally shot just east of the Historic Sandy TRAX Station, near 180 E. 8960 South. Agents from the ATF were looking for another man at the time, when they came across Liles.

Witnesses reported hearing multiple shots before a BMW that Liles was driving ended up in the parkway of a nearby Montessori school.

Few details about the incident were released at the time. On Wednesday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill released his final report finding the fatal shooting justified.

ATF agents, including then Resident Agent in Charge Brian Embley, were looking that day for a man named Brian Solis. One agent received information about what was believed to be "Brian's" cellphone and pinged it, according to Gill's report.

The phone, however, actually belonged to Bryan Liles and not Brian Solis, the report stated.

The agents, attempting to track Solis, were led to the TRAX parking lot. When they didn't see Solis, they decided to approach Liles and find out why he seemed to have Solis' phone based on the pinging, the report states.

According to Gill's report, when agents asked Liles and two women he was with for ID, he began walking toward his car. The ATF agents told him to stop and not worry about his identification, but Liles kept walking anyway, the report states.

After Liles got into the car and turned it on, an ATF agent reached in the vehicle in an attempt to grab the keys, according to the report. That's when Liles started driving off with the agent "half inside the car," the report states.

Embley, fearing that his agent would be dragged or run over, and also fearing he, too, would be "taken out," made a "very split second decision" and fired three rounds at Liles, according to the report.

The agent hanging out of the car was able to drop off, and Liles stopped driving a short time later.

Embley said Liles stopping his car raised red flags for him, because he had a clear path to drive away at that point. He told investigators he feared Liles was "stopping to have a battle with us," the report states.

As Embley approached the car, Liles said, "I've been shot. Why did you shoot me?" according to the report.

Liles looked at Embley and then "reached down with both hands as though he were searching for something," the report states. That movement prompted Embley to fire again, striking Liles again. He was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

Gill determined that Embley "reasonably believed" Liles presented a risk of serious injury or death, even when he used deadly force a second time because he believed Liles stopped his car to "battle" agents, the report states. The decision was based in part on the "totality of the circumstances," Gill stated in his report.

Although Liles wasn't the man the ATF was looking for that day, he did have several warrants out of his arrest for probation violation. He was also wanted for allegedly hitting a West Valley police officer with his car on Feb. 6 at the Egate Apartments, 2309 W. Fly Catchers Lane.

Solis, the man agents were originally looking for that day, was eventually arrested and convicted on a firearm charge in federal court.