Four police officers were legally justified in using deadly force against a Cedar City man who police say had just attempted to stab somebody and then rammed an officer’s vehicle head-on while trying to avoid arrest.
That was the conclusion from Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington, who announced Friday that police were justified in shooting Larry Joseph Lee Tessier, 36, leaving him with critical injuries.
“In this case, their actions were justified. I don’t know honestly what else they could have done. They tried every less-lethal method available to stop this individual. He was completely noncompliant,” Huntington said. “The only way to stop this individual was with their firearms.”
Tessier survived the shooting and was charged in 5th District Court with two counts of aggravated assault and failing to stop at the command of police, all third-degree felonies.
On Feb. 14, Tessier attacked a man just moments after the victim pulled into his driveway in Cedar City, according to charging documents.
Police spotted Tessier shortly after he drove away and pulled him over. Dashboard video released Friday shows an officer approaching Tessier’s vehicle with his gun drawn. But Tessier refused to get out of his SUV and “kept reaching for objects inside his vehicle,” the charges state.
After driving off from the traffic stop, police chased after him and attempted to stop Tessier using tire spikes and a PIT maneuver, according to the charges. In the video, Tessier appears to only be going 30 mph as he refuses to pull over.
He eventually drives to the neighborhood where the original assault occurred.
Police attempted two PIT maneuvers — which involved a police patrol car hitting the rear side-panel of Tessier’s vehicle. The second maneuver caused the SUV to spin 180 degrees.
Tessier, who was now facing officers, then rammed a patrol vehicle head-on, according to investigators. Other officers exited their vehicles as Tessier backed his SUV into a ditch and a fence in a vacant field, according to the video released Friday.
As officers approached the SUV, Tessier appeared to continue to rev his engine. Multiple officers can be heard on body camera videos warning each other, “Watch out!”
Tessier then put his vehicle in drive and just before he hit a second police vehicle head-on, officers opened fire. The Deseret News counted approximately 20 shots in the video.
After officers stopped shooting, they yelled, “Show me your hands” several times as they again walked toward Tessier’s vehicle, according to the video. At that point, Tessier is heard saying, “OK, OK, OK” as he slowly sticks his hands out of his window.
With the front end of his car heavily damaged and bullet holes in his windshield, police can be heard in the videos telling Tessier to “don’t move” and “don’t reach” as they try to pry open his damaged door so they can give him medical attention. Tessier is heard grunting in pain as officers pull him out of his vehicle.
“My arm,” Tessier yelled as he walked out of his SUV.
Enoch police officers and Iron County sheriff’s deputies assisted with the arrest, according to police.
Contributing: Felicia Martinez, KSL-TV