ST. GEORGE – The police shooting of a man who allegedly robbed a bank at gunpoint, took hostages and fired at police while fleeing was ruled justified by the Washington County Attorney’s Office Friday.
A report released by the Washington County Attorney’s Office identifies two St. George Police officers, Officer Jarab Daniel and Sgt. Richard Triplett, as the individuals involved in the shooting of 37-year-old bank robbery suspect Benjamin Jay Schroff.
Incident leading to the shooting
On Sept. 11, Schroff reportedly robbed the Zions Bank on River Road at gunpoint and took two hostages with him and used one of the hostage’s cars to flee the scene. When police spotted the car, Schroff began to fire at them, striking a number of the police vehicles. None of the pursuing officers were hit themselves. Schroff then abandoned the car and the hostages and ran into an area along the Virgin River that was a mix of subdivisions and foliage. The hostages were found unharmed.
Schroff was armed with a shotgun, a handgun, and wearing body armor in the form of a tactical vest, the report states.
It is while searching for Schroff that St. George Police Officer Jarab Daniel, Sgt. Richard Tripplet and other officers encountered him and the altercation took place.
The report states Schroff left the cover of a brush with the shotgun in hand and ran toward two officers ahead of him. Other officers who saw him ordered him to stop and drop the gun multiple times. Schroff allegedly pointed the shotgun at an officer, at which point Triplett and Daniel opened fire.
“Schroff took a few steps forward, fell to the ground, and rolled onto his back,” the report states.
At this time Triplett and Daniel were giving Schroff commands to keep his hands up and visible. Instead, both officers said “they saw Schroff reaching toward his waistband and feared that Schroff was reaching for another weapon,” according to Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap’s report.
Triplett and Daniel fired a second round of shots that proved fatal.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Schroff was shot 26-28 times – twice to the head.
Use of deadly force ruled justified
Officers must have probable cause to use deadly force, Belnap wrote in the report.
Both Triplett and Daniel had probable cause based on Schroff’s alleged actions which amounted to several felony-level offenses, Belnap wrote, including aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapped, aggravated attempted murder.
Belnap said the use of deadly force was also justified in order to prevent the suspect’s escape. It was noted the direction Schroff was running toward, not only placed two officers in his path, but also “a populated subdivision where onlookers had congregated.”
Because the suspect had previously taken hostages, shot at officers, was disregarding commands to drop his weapon, was wearing body armor, and was running toward another officer while pointing the gun toward that officer, Sergeant Triplett and Officer Daniel reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others, including fellow officers or civilians located just beyond the police perimeter
Sergeant Triplett and Offìcer Daniel’s use of deadly force was justified under Utah law
Following the incident on Sept. 11, family and friends of Schroff said they were grieved and surprised.
“He was a great guy,” Schroff’s stepsister Julie Santiago told St. George News. It appeared he had fallen into “a bad and dark place and he didn’t see a way out out of it,” she said.
- Washington County Attorney’s Office letter to St. George Chief Marlon Stratton ruling the shooting justified
- Zions Bank robbery suspect fatally shot named; sister gives exclusive interview
- Bank robbery, kidnapping ends in fatal shooting; STGnews Videocast
- News LIVE: Suspect in Zions Bank robbery confirmed dead; updated 5:12 p.m.
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