Facebook Twitter

Charges were filed against a dead Salt Lake man in error, police say

SHARE Charges were filed against a dead Salt Lake man in error, police say

Body camera video of the officer-involved shooting of Michael Chad Breinholt is played during a press briefing at West Valley City Hall on Friday, Sept. 6, 2019. Breinholt was shot and killed in the DUI processing area of City Hall on Aug. 23, 2019.

Steve Griffin, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake man who was shot and killed by police in August was charged in court Friday with DUI.

The criminal charges were filed in 3rd District Court, charging Michael Chad Breinholt, 31, with driving under the influence, a third-degree felony, and being an alcohol-restricted driver, a class B misdemeanor.

When asked why charges would be filed against a man who was killed by a West Valley police officer four months ago, West Valley police told the Deseret News that a clerical error mistakenly led to the case being submitted to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to be screened for charges.

By Friday afternoon, after being made aware of the situation, the district attorney’s office filed a motion for the case to be dismissed.

On Aug. 23, Breinholt was in the basement of West Valley City Hall after being arrested for investigation of intoxication and DUI. He was in handcuffs in a small room as West Valley officers waited for a warrant to draw blood from Breinholt to be tested for drugs and alcohol before taking him to the Salt Lake County Jail.

While sitting in a chair, Breinholt managed to take one of his shoes off and told police there was a gun in it, even though no weapon was ever located, according to police. As a precaution, officers had Breinholt stand up so they could reach behind his chair to get his shoe.

In body camera video released by police, Breinholt is seen standing up, and then lowering his head and appearing to position himself near the officer. Moments later, the officer yells, “He’s got my gun! He’s got my gun!”

This video contains sensitive or violent content Tap To Display

Despite being handcuffed, Breinholt appears in the video to grab the officer’s gun — which remained in the officer’s holster the entire time — and police struggled to pull him away. The situation ends when an officer shoots Breinholt at close range, instantly killing him.

At the time of his arrest, Breinholt told officers his name was Chad Michael Breinholt, according to West Valley police, which is how his name was originally released to the media.

West Valley police spokeswoman Roxeanne Vainuku on Friday said it was that confusion over his first and middle name that led to a “clerical error” and Breinholt’s prior DUI arrest being submitted to the district attorney’s office to be screened for potential charges.

In May, Breinholt was arrested by West Valley police for investigation of DUI, according to a police booking affidavit, and his new charges. Police were initially called on a report of a car that had “hit some trees and left the area,” according to charging documents.

When officers found Breinholt, his blood-alcohol level was measured at 0.118, nearly four times the legal limit, the charges state.

That case was submitted to the district attorney’s office on Sept. 4, about a week and a half after he was killed, according to a spokesman for the district attorney’s office.

Deputy district attorney Jeff Hall said Friday that it took a while to review the case, which was formally screened for charges on Thursday.

Even though the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office is still reviewing the officer-involved shooting incident that led to Breinholt’s death, Hall said those cases are looked at separately from criminal cases. So the team reviewing potential criminal charges would not necessarily recognize a defendant as someone also being reviewed in an officer-invovled critical incident investigation.