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West Valley officer legally justified in shooting man holding crowbar, D.A. rules

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Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses speaks at a press conference about an officer-involved shooting.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses a May 10 officer-involved critical incident during a press conference at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Gill said West Valley City officer Kurtis Bradley’s use of deadly force against a man charging at officers with a crowbar, which resulted in injuries that were not life-threatening, was justified.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

A West Valley police officer who shot a man accused of charging at other officers while holding a crowbar was legally justified in using deadly force, the district attorney concluded Friday.

On May 10, officer Kurtis Braley fired five rounds at Denny James Clark, 25, who investigators say ignored numerous commands to stop and drop his weapon. Clark survived his injuries and was later charged in 3rd District Court with aggravated burglary, two counts of assault on a police officer, vehicle burglary and criminal mischief.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Friday during a press conference that Braley was justified in shooting Clark.

About 1:30 a.m. on May 10, emergency dispatchers received multiple calls about a man using a metal object to break windows while trying to enter homes in the area of 3850 South and 4800 West.

Braley and another officer arrived in the area and found Clark in a driveway holding a big crowbar, according to Gill’s final report investigating the shooting.

“Nope,” Clark responded several times.

Clark then demands car keys “or someone’s getting it,” he said.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses a May 10 officer-involved critical incident.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses a May 10 officer-involved critical incident during a press conference at the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office building in Salt Lake City on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. Gill said West Valley City officer Kurtis Bradley’s use of deadly force against a man charging at officers with a crowbar, which resulted in injuries that were not life-threatening, was justified.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

At that point, an officer is heard talking on his police radio, telling dispatchers to “expedite all units.” A third officer arrived on scene shortly after and drew his Taser. When the third officer arrived, Clark then turned his full attention to police.

“All right, here I come,” Clark tells the officers as he begins walking briskly toward them while still holding the 3-foot crowbar with both hands above his head.

Clark focused on one officer and chased him as he retreated into the street at jogging pace, the video shows. As he did so, another officer deployed his Taser on Clark, which had no effect. The officer being chased said he was trying to create space between Clark and the other officers.

As the confrontation continued into the street, Clark continued chasing one officer at a brisk pace as the two others followed. A second Taser was deployed, but it had no effect, either.

Clark then turned around and focused his attention on Braley and charged at him with the crowbar still raised above his head.

“Drop it right now or I’ll … shoot,” Braley told him.

Just as he finished saying those words, Braley fired five times.

Braley declined to be interviewed for the officer-involved shooting investigation conducted by the district attorney’s office. One of the other officers who was there, however, told investigators that he believed Clark’s intention “was to absolutely hurt and kill anyone he could get his hands on,” according to the report.

Clark was shot twice.

In this case, Gill said the officers did as they are trained to do.

“The objective here to try and deescalate the situation, which they tried to do,” he said.

The officers maintained a sufficient distance between themselves and Clark, they gave multiple verbal commands to drop the crowbar, and they attempted to use nonlethal force before shooting.

“So yes, they did everything I think is reasonable,” Gill said. “I think they did it about as good as they could have done it.”

Despite the efforts by the officers, Clark continued to escalate the situation, the district attorney said.

Clark’s next court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 26.