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'He was the very best': Utahns mourn slain Provo police officer

Shooting death of Joseph Shinners described as 'heartbreaking,' 'gut-wrenching'

SPRINGVILLE — Hundreds in snow boots and heavy coats lined Springville's Main Street Sunday to pay tribute to Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, who was shot late Saturday in Orem and later died in a hospital.

There were hundreds of American flags along the route, some held by small children and others by adults who stood in the cold to honor Shinners, 29.

Provo police officer Joseph Shinners was shot in Orem late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2018, while responding to a report of a wanted fugitive. He later died at Utah Valley Hospital.
Provo police officer Joseph Shinners was shot in Orem late Saturday, Jan. 5, 2018, while responding to a report of a wanted fugitive. He later died at Utah Valley Hospital.
Provo Police Department

A hearse carrying Shinners’ remains was accompanied by a procession of law enforcement officers who escorted him from the state medical examiner’s office in Taylorsville to a mortuary in Springville.

Shinners had worked for the Provo Police Department for three years. He was married to Kaylyn Swanson Shinners and was the father of a 1-year-old son. The couple dated while they attended Springville High School, where Shinners was a standout on the school’s soccer team. Both graduated in 2008.

After Shinners returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to El Salvador, the couple wed. They would have celebrated their seventh anniversary in February, said Craig Jensen, a member of the Springville City Council and family friend. Jensen’s daughter Karlie Jensen Mitchell is a longtime friend of Kaylyn Shinners.

“He’s a great kid. He comes from a family of service,” Jensen said.

Jensen said Shinners was well known among area law enforcement workers who appreciate “up and coming” officers who serve for the right reasons and have good attitudes.

“He could be serious when he needed to be but he had a heart. He wasn’t in it for himself. He was in it because it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson said Shinners’ death left him “furious, I'm heartbroken, I'm shocked."

"Joe Shinners was intelligent, he was honorable, he was hardworking. He was decent in every single way and he exemplified the nobility of policing," an emotional Ferguson said.

"He was the very best of the Provo Police Department."

Once, after taking a suspect into custody, Shinners asked the man if he needed anything. The man asked for a hug and "officer Shinners gave him a hug. That was the kind of cop that he was," the chief said.

Mapleton firefighters salute as thousands line 400 South and Main Street in Springville as the body of slain Provo police officer Joseph Shinners is escorted to a funeral home during a processional on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
Mapleton firefighters salute as they join thousands lined up on 400 South and Main Street in Springville as the body of slain Provo police officer Joseph Shinners is escorted to a funeral home during a processional on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

A GoFundMe has been set up in memory of Shinners and to support his family.

Orem Police Chief Gary Giles said Provo and Orem officers responded to the Orem Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot, 50 W. University Parkway, around 10 p.m. Saturday with the objective of taking into custody a 40-year-old fugitive who in the recent past had made threats of violence against police officers.

The suspected shooter is homeless and was a "dangerous fugitive," police say. It appears Shinners was able to return fire, wounding the suspect.

The suspected gunman was taken into custody but Giles declined to name him, explaining that Sunday was a day to honor Shinners. The suspect was at Utah Valley Hospital in stable condition and faces multiple criminal charges, including aggravated murder of a police officer, he said.

Bystander video sent to the Deseret News shortly after the shooting shows multiple police officers surrounding a white truck in the parking lot and appears to show an officer stumble away from the truck and then kneel down on the ground.

Warning: This video contains disturbing content.

Another officer later appears to help move him toward some parked police vehicles. Officers can then be seen dragging the suspect out of the truck after yelling and a confrontation.

Shortly after that, police appear to carry the wounded officer who had been near the police vehicles to an SUV. That SUV is then seen speeding out of the parking lot with lights and sirens activated.

Delene Ostler, who lives in Washington state, happened to be traveling along University Parkway just prior to the shooting. After observing a significant police presence and a white pickup truck attempting to take off, her husband pulled over and she shot the video.

The Ostlers understood they had witnessed a significant event, but they did not realize at that point that anyone had died until reading news reports Sunday morning, she said.

The video shows an officer being helped into a police vehicle. “It just took off so fast and we knew that there was a police officer in it, so we figured something was terribly wrong,” she said.

Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson speaks about officer Joseph Shinners, 29, who was shot and killed in Orem late Saturday, during a press conference in the Provo City Council chambers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson speaks about officer Joseph Shrinners, 29, who was shot and killed in Orem late Saturday, during a press conference in the Provo City Council chambers on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

“I immediately thought of his family and wondered, 'Does he have a wife? Does he have a kid? What are his mom and dad doing?' Just a tragic thing,” said Ostler, who was in Utah with her husband to visit family, including their newborn grandson.

Giles said Orem police will handle the criminal investigation and the officer-involved shooting will be reviewed by an investigative team from the county.

"Officer Shinners represents every one of us. He represents every one of us who enjoy peace, who enjoy freedom. Today a little bit of that freedom as been eroded away," he said.

Provo Mayor Michelle Kafusi told Shinners' family that citizens of Provo stand with them.

"I'm so terribly, terribly sorry," she said, her voice breaking with emotion at times.

She said the love and support from Shinners' family helped shape him into the man and officer who honorably served and laid down his life.

"To all citizens, I call on you to let this day awaken in us a new sense of gratitude and profound respect for the men and women in our communities who put on this uniform, and to the spouses, children and parents and other family of those brave souls," the mayor said.

She added, "Officer Joseph Shinners, with all we have in our souls, we salute you and thank you."

Sunday evening, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued the following statement: "I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of officer Shinners. It is devastating to mourn yet another death among our brave and selfless police force, and my heart aches for Joseph's wife and young son. We owe an enormous debt to the men and women in uniform who work to protect our communities, and I pray that God will bless this dear family with peace during this very difficult time."

The U.S. and Utah flags will be lowered on the day of Shinners' funeral, the governor said.

Many local, state and federal officials expressed condolences following the fatal shooting, describing the killing as "heartbreaking" and "gut-wrenching."

Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah and former Provo mayor, in a tweet wrote that it is "a sad day in Provo. One of the city's finest was shot and killed outside a business late last night in Orem. I was the Provo mayor for eight years and don't know a more dedicated group of first responders. Thank you. We won't forget."

He was joined by Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who wrote: "It’s a sad day for Provo police where one of their own was killed protecting the community. Sending my prayers and condolences to the fallen officer’s loved ones and all who knew him."

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, tweeted: Heartbroken with the tragic passing of officer Joseph Shinners last night in the line duty — a loving husband and new father. Ann and I extend our deepest condolences to officer Shinners' family, friends and fellow Provo police officers. God bless our men and women in uniform."

Police officers and firefighters gathered at Utah Valley Hospital early Sunday to show support to Shinners’ family.

Shinners “was one of the hardest working persons we’ve ever had here. He was one of the humblest guys as well. He was never in it for his own glory. He was always out there working hard and he was willing to give everybody else the credit for it," Provo police detective Nick Dupaix said.

"He was one of those guys that was always willing to listen to you no matter what walk of life you came from. He was always there to show someone respect as well, didn’t matter if you were a criminal or a high class citizen."

"Our hearts hurt. This is happening far too often," Payton police tweeted. "Rest in peace, officer. Your brothers and sisters have the watch from here."

"This is (happening) far too often and is inconceivable to imagine what this family is going through," police in Wellington, Carbon County, tweeted.

U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber wrote on Twitter, "Our hearts are broken as we learn of the death of Provo police officer. Thoughts and prayers for friends and family of this officer."

The Utah Highway Patrol wrote that hearing of the loss of the Provo officer in law enforcement is "gut-wrenching."

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox added: "Our hearts are broken this morning with the death of one of Provo’s finest. May God bless his family, colleagues and all the men and women in uniform that protect us."

Dupaix said officers are grateful for the support. "We're really sad and heartbroken that he has passed on, but his legacy will continue to live on through each and every one of his brothers here at the police department.”

Shinners is the sixth law enforcement official since 1951 to die in the line of duty on Jan. 5, according to the website The online memorial describes Jan. 5 as a “deadliest day.”

According to Utah’s Fallen, the others include:

• Ogden police officer Jared Francom, 30, who was shot and killed Jan. 5, 2012 while serving a “knock and announce” search warrant in the Ogden area. Five other members of the force were shot and injured during the exchange of gunfire with the suspect, who was wounded, apprehended and died by suicide in his jail cell while awaiting trial.

• Millard County sheriff’s deputy Josie Greathouse Fox, 37, who was shot and killed Jan. 5, 2010, during a traffic stop on Highway 50, 1 mile east of Delta. Fox stopped a vehicle and was approaching when she was fired upon with a high-powered rifle. At least one of the rounds passed through her body armor and inflicted a fatal wound. The suspect fled but was later arrested in Beaver County.

• Cache County Sheriff’s Lt. James R. Merrill, 40, was accidentally killed on Bullock Road, south of Smithfield, on Jan. 5, 1974. Merrill had stopped his police vehicle and got out to talk to a friend. He slipped on the icy road and struck his head on his vehicle as he fell. Despite medical attention, he died within a few minutes.

• Moab police officer August L. Larsen, 21, was shot and killed in the police station on Jan. 5, 1961. Larsen, working a night shift, was seated at a desk with his back to the door when someone entered the station and shot him as he typed his reports. Footprints in the snow led officers to the home of a man with a grudge against law enforcement.

• Salt Lake Police Sgt. Thomas Stroud, 34, died Jan. 5, 1951, when his pistol accidentally fell from his waistband, struck the sidewalk and discharged. A bullet struck his heart and he died immediately. Stroud and another officer were preparing for a department-sponsored children’s party when the accident occurred.

Contributing: Sean Moody, Sam Penrod

Correction: A previous version incorrectly stated that slain Provo police officer Joseph Shinners served a church mission to Ecuador. He served in El Salvador.