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Widow of slain Utah police officer recalls big surprise 3 days after funeral

‘It’s a big deal’: Kaylyn Shinners hopes to be in D.C. for memorial

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During an interview on Tuesday, Dec 3, 2019, in Salt Lake City, Kaylyn Shinners holds her son Colton, as she talks about her late husband, Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, who was killed in the line of duty Jan. 5, 2019. Shinners learned she was pregnant with Colton just three days after her husband died.

Aubrey Schafer, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Little Colton Shinners may not have had the chance to meet his father, slain Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, but that doesn’t mean he won’t know him.

“I try to talk about him everyday. He’s just a part of our everyday lives,” Shinners’ widow, Kaylyn Shinners, told the Deseret News on Tuesday.

Joseph Shinners, 29, was with a group of Provo and Orem officers who were attempting to arrest a man in a pickup truck on Jan. 5 in the parking lot at Bed Bath and Beyond, 50 W. University Parkway in Orem. The man had two warrants out for his arrest and had allegedly made threatening comments toward police that he did not want to go back to jail.

As Shinners tried to get the man out of the truck, a shot was fired, striking Shinners in an area not protected by his bulletproof vest. The injury would prove to be fatal. Shinners was the first Provo officer killed in the line of duty in more than 100 years.


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

Three days after his funeral, Kaylyn Shinners learned that she was pregnant with their second child.

At first she said she was overwhelmed, shocked and numb.

“There’s a lot of feelings. A lot of excitement. A lot of sadness. It’s amazing how many feelings you can feel at once. You know, you kind of think you’re either happy or sad, you’re feeling joy, you’re feeling grief. But you can actually feel a lot at the same time. And that wasn’t something I had really realized before, that I can feel such joy and such grief and sadness at exactly the same time,” she said.

Colton Shinners was born on Sept. 24, a day before his father’s birthday.

Today, Kaylyn Shinners talks to her children, Colton and 2-year-old Logan about their father all the time.

“I just want them to know, and they will, just the type of person he was, because he was pretty awesome,” she said. “He’s still a part of our lives.”

Joseph and Kaylyn Swanson Shinners both attended Springville High School where Shinners was a standout on the school’s soccer team. They were high school sweethearts, both graduating in 2008.

The couple was married after Shinners returned from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to El Salvador.

Originally from the Boston area, Shinners had been with the Provo Police Department for three years at the time of his death. It was a job that Kaylyn said her husband absolutely loved.

Next year, Shinners’ name will be added to the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a big deal,” Kaylyn Shinners said. “It’s a great way to honor him. It’s also a really great way for our family to connect with other families who have lost their loved ones this year and previous years.”

Not only will it be another chance to honor her husband, but she said it will also be an opportunity for both their blood family and their “blue family” to heal.

At least 40 officers with the Provo Police Department also want to be there when Shinners’ name is added to the national memorial, she said.


Haverhill, Massachusetts, police officer Michael Shinners speaks during the funeral for his brother, slain Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, at the UCCU Center in Orem on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2019.

Steve Griffin

“A lot of the attention is on me and our grieving and healing process. But they are also grieving, and they also need to heal. And this is one way they have that opportunity to go and do that with other officers and see their families and feel that support for them and know that they’re not alone. And sometimes it’s helpful for me to remember I’m not the only young widow out there. It’s hard for all of us,” Shinners said.

Because of that, a GoFundMe campaign has been launched to try and raise enough money for everyone to go.

In addition, T-shirts with Joseph Shinners’ badge number on the front and a picture of him walking toward the mountains on the back are being sold. And a concert by country singer Billy Dean will be held at the Covey Center on the campus of Brigham Young University on Jan. 2 and Jan. 3 with all proceeds going toward the effort to send the Shinners family and police officers to the nation’s capital in May.

With the one-year anniversary of her husband’s death approaching, Shinners said she has been thinking about the past year and her final weeks with her husband.

“And there’s not a whole lot that I would change. But it’s just hard to think about,” she said.

She also doesn't believe reaching the one-year anniversary will magically make things any better.

“Things are never going to be all better. Things are OK. Things aren’t great. We are so blessed and we have so many wonderful things. But this hole is always here. And one year, 10 years, it’s not going to go away,” she said. “Sometimes it still doesn’t feel real. Sometimes I still feel that Joe could just walk through the door.

“Unfortunately, it is.”

But because of Logan and Colton, Kaylyn said she put up Christmas decorations and is doing all of the holiday traditions that she and Joseph did together.

And if people want to remember and honor her husband, Shinners hopes they will try to be more like him. That doesn't mean they have to be perfect, she said. Just try harder to be a better person.