Facebook Twitter

Officers justified in fatal shooting of man with realistic gun, D.A. rules

SHARE Officers justified in fatal shooting of man with realistic gun, D.A. rules

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill holds a fake gun during a press conference at the District Attorney’s office in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 28, 2020, as he discusses an officer-involved shooting in Millcreek in February. Gill ruled six Unified police officers were justified in using deadly force against Marc Dominic Neal, who was holding the fake gun when he was killed.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Six Unified police officers who shot and killed a man with a gun in Millcreek in February were determined Friday by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office to be legally justified in using deadly force.

On Feb. 3, officers were called to a “domestic incident” involving a man with a gun at 2468 E. Evergreen Ave. (3400 South) about 11:50 a.m., according to police. The mother and stepfather of Marc Dominic Neal, 57, told dispatchers that Neal was acting strangely and “flying high,” according to the final report on the deadly shooting issued by District Attorney Sim Gill.

When police arrived, they encountered Neal holding a gun in the driveway. They ordered him several times to “Drop it!” and “Put down the gun!” the report states.

“Put it down, Marc ... don’t do it,” one officer can be heard in recorded body camera video released Friday.

One officer is heard saying in body camera video “Drop the gun” at least eight times, the report states.

“Officers offered to help Mr. Neal and tried to get Mr. Neal to talk about what he wanted and to surrender himself, but Mr. Neal replied he wasn't going back to prison and told one of the officers he was going to shoot the officer,” according to the report.


An unidentified woman hugs a Unified police officer after a man with a gun was shot and killed by police during a “domestic incident” at 2468 E. Evergreen Ave. (3400 South) in Millcreek on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Officer Chris Schroeder attempted to talk to Neal for approximately 12 minutes, offering him medical assistance, asking him what he needed, and offering to “work it out,” the report states. He said “Talk to us” at least 11 times and “Don’t lift it” at least four times, referring to Neal’s gun, according to the report.

But Gill said Neal told the officer that he was going to shoot him first.

“Do what you gotta do,” he told the officers, and “It ain’t happening, not today,” according to the report.

After talking with Neal for approximately 12 minutes, Neal took a “shooting stance,” raised his weapon and “pointed it in the direction of several officers who were positioned in front of the house,” the report states.

Six officers — officer Aaron Lawrence, officer Rob Falser, officer Kaley Erickson, officer Michael Erickson, Schroeder, and officer Trevor Weeks — all fired their weapons. A total of 19 shots were fired, the report states.

Lawrence, the only officer who agreed to be interviewed for Gill’s report, said that prior to the shooting Neal seemed “defiant” and acted as though he was “planning his actions,” according to the report.

“Officer Lawrence said that Mr. Neal’s behavior caused him to believe that Mr. Neal was ‘gearing up’ to take some action,” the report states.

Three officers declined to be interviewed for the district attorney’s report but provided a written statement. Two officers, including Schroeder, declined to give a verbal or written statement, according to Gill.

Of the six officers who fired their weapons, three had body camera videos that were recording. One did not turn their body camera on, and two others did not have body cameras.

Most of the officers who were wearing body cameras that day had their cameras covered by winter jackets they were wearing, Gill said. There was already a lot of snow on the ground and it continued snowing during the incident. Gill said the only video recording of the shooting was from an officer who did not zip his jacket. That officer, who had his rifle drawn while taking cover from his car, recorded Neal walking around with a gun as Schroeder attempted to negotiate. Shots are then fired after Neal raises his gun.

The gun Neal was holding turned out to be a metal replica, Gill said. But during Friday's news conference, Gill displayed the gun Neal pointed at officers that day and commented on how it was “as authentic of a real gun that you can find.”

Gill noted that Neal was too far away from officers for Tasers to be used. And while police were negotiating with him, another officer was en route from Taylorsville with a less lethal bean bag rifle but did not arrive before the shooting took place.

After the shooting, police learned that Neal was allegedly involved in a domestic violence incident a week earlier and had told his mother “he wasn’t going back to prison, no matter what,” the report states. His ex-girlfriend said that Neal told her he was going to do a “suicide by cop,” but then corrected herself and said that Mr. Neal said he was going to do a “murder-suicide,” according to the report.

Gill was asked during the press conference if there was anything police could do to avoid a “suicide by cop” situation. In this case, the responding officers were told that Neal had mental health issues, may be under the influence of drugs and was suicidal.

The district attorney said he sees the intersection of mental health issues and threatening behavior far too often in shooting review cases, and personally believes society needs to do a better job of helping those who are on parole or probation and are struggling with mental health.

But Gill also said he can’t ignore the fact that officers believed a real gun was being pointed at them.

“It’s tragic. This shooting is absolutely tragic in the sense that you have someone who may have mental health compromise, who may be on drugs, but at the same time I have officers who are responding to what they believe is an actual domestic situation where the persons who are reporting are saying it is a real gun ... and there’s nothing to indicate to them it’s not. Even though they were aware of his mental illness, they are responding to what he does. And at that point, for all intents and purposes, what they perceive is a real gun pointing (at them) after he says, ‘You’re gonna be first,’” Gill said.

Court records show Neal pleaded guilty to burglary, a third-degree felony, in 2018, and was sentenced to up to five years in the Utah State Prison. He was paroled in 2019.