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West Jordan officer found justified in shootout that killed 17-year-old boy

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, pictured in this February 2020 file photo, speaks during a press conference at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, pictured in this February 2020 file photo, speaks during a press conference at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office in Salt Lake City.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — As the West Jordan police officer asked the noncompliant driver to step out of a suspected stolen pickup truck, the teenage driver pulled out a gun without warning and fired it at near point-blank range.

The officer was shot in the neck.

If not for the extra lift on the pickup truck that created extra distance between the officer and the driver’s window, as well as an unusual angle for the gunman to shoot, prosecutors believe the officer would have been killed.

Video of the dramatic confrontation between two officers and a 17-year-old boy that resulted in one officer being injured and the boy killed was released Friday as part of Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill’s final report about the incident.

Gill determined that West Jordan police officer Gage Hoogveldt was legally justified in using deadly force against 17-year-old Cyrus Carpenter and reasonably believed his life and the lives of others were in danger.

On Aug, 2, West Jordan police were called to a report of a stolen pickup truck with three people inside that was parked in the street of a residential neighborhood near 2350 West and 7700 South. Hoogveldt stood behind the truck on the passenger side as fellow officer T. Jackson approached the driver’s side window to talk to Carpenter.

In dashboard camera video from Jackson’s patrol car, he tries to explain to Carpenter that the truck is reported stolen and he needs him to step out of the vehicle.

“C’mon. Let’s step out. Let’s put your hands where I can see them, OK? Why you shaking so bad, huh?” he asks Carpenter.

Jackson said Carpenter did not comply with commands to get out of the truck, prompting him to call for backup officers. While speaking with Carpenter, Jackson said he could see him sweating and his hands shaking, which were “red flags,” according to Gill’s report.

While Jackson was talking to the driver, Hoogveldt is seen in video from his patrol car talking to the passengers and telling them to step out of the truck.

“Guys, make this easy for us, OK?” he tells the passengers.

As Jackson continued to prompt Carpenter to step out of the pickup, he tells him to open the door from the outside. Carpenter then used his left hand to reach through the window and acted as if he was going to open the door, when he quickly withdrew his hand and “brought his right hand up with a handgun and fired a shot, hitting officer Jackson in the neck and exiting out his back,” according to the report.

The shot grazed Jackson’s chin first before entering his neck, the report states.

Jackson later explained to investigators that after Carpenter withdrew his left hand, “I go to draw my gun, and he — I don’t know where he pulled it from — but that's when he pulls with his right hand a small black handgun,” the report states. “That’s when he fired the shot.”

Jackson stumbled to a nearby parked car to take cover. He said his arm looked as though it was dislocated as he saw blood running down his chest, according to the report. He said he tried to draw his gun, but “couldn’t control his right hand at all.”

After the first shot was fired, Hoogveldt ran to the front of the pickup and exchanged shots with Carpenter through the windshield. After firing at Hoogveldt, Carpenter turned and fired again at the other officer, the report states. Hoogveldt responded by firing multiple shots at Carpenter.

Carpenter jumped out of the truck, but Gill said he apparently forgot the extra height on the vehicle and fell to the ground. He then got up and tried to run away, but continued pointing his gun at Hoogveldt.

Hoogveldt fired another round at Carpenter, and then stopped to reload his weapon. In the video, it appears Carpenter is injured as he continues to stumble away.

When Carpenter reached the other side of the street, he turned and shot again at Hoogveldt, who later told investigators he could hear a “bullet whizzing right by” and hit a fence behind him. the report states.

Hoogveldt said that’s when he thought to himself: “I need to shoot this guy or he’s going to kill me,” according to the report.

The officer fired his weapon again at Carpenter, who ran to the side yard of a house. Hoogveldt then turned his attention back to his injured colleague.

Body camera video from an arriving backup officer shows other officers attending to Jackson while taking cover behind a patrol car, Blood can be seen on his arm as officers apply pressure to a wound near his shoulder.

Jackson sent several days in a local hospital, but has since returned to duty full time, according to West Jordan police.

After additional backup arrived, Hoogveldt and another officer went back to the area where he last saw Carpenter and found him lying in a yard. In body camera video, Carpenter is not moving or responding to police commands.

The final autopsy results had not been completed as of Friday. But an initial autopsy found Carpenter was shot seven times, with some shots hitting him in the back and the back of his neck, according to the report.

Hoogveldt fired a total of 23 shots during the incident, the report states.

Gill said the shooting incident unfolded over a series of three sequences: the initial shot being fired at Jackson; when Carpenter got out of the vehicle and again pointed his weapon at officers; and when Carpenter continued shooting at Hoogveldt as he ran away.

Given the totality of the situation, Gill said his office looked at the threats that the officer was presented with at the time he pulled the trigger. His office concluded that even though Carpenter was running away, Hoogveldt was justified in believing he still needed to stop that initial threat.

Gill said he met with Carpenter’s father and stepmother prior to Friday’s announcement.

“They express their regrets at the conduct of their son and they have sincere apologies for their son’s conduct to the officers involved and they were very concerned for the safety of the officer,” he said.

While every loss of life is unfortunate, the district attorney praised the actions of Hoogveldt and the West Jordan officers.

“His actions, though resulting in Mr. Carpenter’s death, likely saved many lives in addition to his own. We commend officer Hoogveldt’s actions and those of his colleagues in the West Jordan Police Department for their service to their community.”

Although Gill could not explain why neither Hoogveldt nor Jackson turned their body cameras on, he also commended them for their willingness to be transparent and give statements to his office about what happened — something that many officers involved in shootings choose not to do.