IRON COUNTY – After a 26-day investigation by the Iron County Critical Incident Task Force, Iron County Attorney Scott F. Garrett has concluded the the officer-involved fatal shooting of Rocco Joseph Palmisano III by Parowan Police Officer Tyler Uresk on July 9 was justified.
In an Aug. 4 letter to Parowan Police Chief Ken Carpenter, Garrett related the findings of the Critical Incident Task Force – a team made up of representatives of several law enforcement agencies within the county other than Parowan Police Department – and delivered his conclusions in the incident.
“Officer Uresk was justified in his use of deadly force,” Garrett wrote.
Carpenter said the ruling came as a relief to the Police Department.
“Just knowing that it wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction or anything else, but that he did what he was trained to do (helps),” Carpenter said.
Noting the facts found by the Task Force, detailed below, Garrett concluded that once Palmisano closed the distance between himself and the officer to about 7 feet during the confrontation between the two, Uresk lawfully and understandably pulled his duty weapon on Palmisano.
Further, when Palmisano pulled his own firearm and pointed it directly at Uresk, Garrett concluded that Uresk feared for his safety and reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury.
Garret’s conclusions are based on the following:
- Utah Criminal Law: A police officer’s use of deadly force is justified when the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person
- Garrett’s independent review of the Task Force’s findings
- Garrett’s review of audio and video footage of the night’s events
He noted that if additional or different material facts emerge, his conclusions could change.
Time sequence in brief
Cedar dispatch received a domestic child abuse call around 8:54 p.m.
Uresk was dispatched to the call at about 8:56 p.m.
Uresk called dispatch reporting shots fired about 9 p.m.
Palmisano was declared dead at 10:46 p.m. in Summit, where ambulance transport was relaying him to air transport.
Material facts reported by the Critical Incident Task Force, as related by Garrett
Uresk was dispatched to the domestic child abuse call at Palmisano’s residence, 870 W. 200 South, around 8:56 p.m. on July 9.
According to the Task Force, the 8:54 p.m. call to Cedar Dispatch was made by a man who identified himself as a neighbor who said he could see what was happening by looking into the backyard.
“Specifically, the caller stated that a father was assaulting his son by punching him in the face,” the Task Force found.
The neighbor knew the name of the boy being assaulted but did not know the name of the father, later identified as Palmisano; he gave a description of what Palmisano was wearing, specifically a gray shirt, shorts and a flag bandana.
The neighbor calling the incident in also said the father had been drinking and may have guns in his home, the Task Force found.
Uresk was familiar with the Palmisano residence and the layout of the property, the Task Force found.
On arrival, he parked a house away and spoke with several people in front of the residence who told him an adult man was punching, slapping and choking his son in the backyard. Uresk was directed to a driveway on the west side of the home.
Uresk walked to the corner of the house towards the rear and saw Palmisano “doing something in the back of his truck” and approached him, asking, “Hey, how’s it going?”
Palmisano turned abruptly, the Task Force reported, and Uresk saw an object he believed was a firearm on Palmisano’s belt. The Task Force further found, according to Garrett’s report:
The suspect placed his hand on the firearm and asked the officer, ‘What the F— are you doing here?’ The suspect then began to approach Officer Uresk in a threatening manner, with his hand still on the firearm.
As the suspect came toward him, Officer Uresk put his hand up and said, ‘Hey, you need to calm down.’ The suspect continued to advance toward Officer Uresk, getting to within approximately seven (7) feet. Officer Uresk told the suspect to raise his hands away from the gun. The suspect did not comply.
Uresk then drew his duty weapon, described as a Glock 17 Gen 4 9X19 9 mm. semi-automatic pistol. He pointed it at Palmisano, the Task Force found. Palmisano drew his firearm from his holster, described as a Smith & Wesson Model 80 .38 Special nickel-plated snub nose K-frame revolver, and pointed it directly at Uresk.
Uresk then fired two shots that hit Palmisano in the chest area, the Task Force found, causing him to stumble back and fall down with his gun flying from his hand and resting a few feet away.
At approximately 9 p.m., according to the Task Force findings, Uresk called dispatch reporting shots fired and an ambulance was dispatched.
Uresk approached Palmisano and began providing medical assistance, along with Palmisano’s wife who came out of the home after the shooting, the Task Force found.
Uresk continued to provide medical assistance until the ambulance arrived and took Palmisano to a truck stop in Summit for further transport by Life Flight helicopter. Despite efforts by medical personnel to stabilize him before loading him onto the helicopter, Palmisano died with time of death recorded at 10:46 p.m.
During the time Uresk was providing medical assistance to Palmisano following the shooting, the Task Force reported, he smelled alcohol on Palmisano and secured Palmisano’s weapon away from the wife and child.
Uresk then gave the firearm to Iron County Sheriff’s Deputy Butch Sissner who had arrived as backup after the shooting occurred; Sissner gave the firearm to Parowan Police Chief Ken Carpenter; and Carpenter gave it to the Task Force for investigation and processing.
Police Chief’s comments
Uresk did what he had to do that night, Carpenter said, and the ruling is a relief to everybody on the force, though the tragic event is one that has deeply impacted the entire community on a variety of levels.
“Any time that you have a situation like this, no one comes out as a winner,” the police chief said. “It’s really a lose/lose situation for everybody. It’s really been difficult on the family, it’s been difficult on my officers, and difficult on our department and on our community.”
The relief comes, he said, in knowing that Uresk made the right decision in the eyes of the law in order to protect himself.
Uresk knew him, Carpenter said, because Palmisano was a volunteer fire fighter for the Parowan Fire Department and they had been first responders together on more than one occasion. He added:
He was part of the Parowan Fire Department and we all knew him. We all liked him and we didn’t have any issues with him.
In this particular situation, I think it’s the last thing that Uresk, that had even entered his mind, that when he got there he would be in a deadly force encounter with Rocky.
Uresk has been cleared for duty by his therapist, Carpenter said, and his 21-day administrative leave ended on July 31.
Tuesday’s ruling was one of the major steps the Police Department has been waiting for to get Uresk back to work, the police chief said; the investigation completed by the Iron County Critical Incident Task Force was another.
The Iron County Critical Incident Task Force is comprised of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, Cedar City Police Department, Enoch Police Department and Parowan Police Department, Carpenter said. Parowan recused itself from the case while the Task Force investigation took place.
The Parowan officer who usually works with the county Task Force did, however, work an Internal Affairs investigation on the shooting on behalf of the Parowan Police Department as well.
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