ST. GEORGE — A man was killed during an officer-involved shooting on state Route 31 in Emery County, after 911 calls reporting a possible drunk driver evolved into a pursuit Saturday evening, authorities say.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, the Emery County Sheriff’s Office emergency dispatch center began receiving calls on a possible DUI driver, according to a statement released by Utah Department of Public Safety authorities.
Emery County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to the area where they spotted the car, at which point one of the deputies initiated a traffic stop. As soon as the vehicle pulled over, the driver allegedly exited the car and “pointed a handgun in the direction of the Emery County Deputy,” the release stated.
The suspect jumped back in the vehicle and drove off with police close behind as additional units were called in to assist pursuing officers.
Meanwhile, a Utah Highway Patrol trooper deployed spike strips just ahead of the pursuit, which shredded the suspect’s tires and ended the chase a short time later. A number of police units rolled up and stopped behind the suspect’s car.
As soon as the man exited the vehicle, he pointed a firearm in the officers’ direction, at which point an Emery County Deputy and a UHP Trooper fired their duty weapons, striking the suspect.
Officers and emergency medical personnel attempted lifesaving measures on the man that were unsuccessful, authorities said, and he was pronounced dead a short time later.
The incident took place in the Huntington Canyon area on SR-31, Whitney Coonrod, Public Information Officer for the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office told St. George News.
Both directions of state Route 31 were closed between Maple Fork and Huntington Saturday evening.
Officer Involved Critical Incident protocols were activated and the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office was the lead investigative agency on the case, since the incident involved an Emery County Sheriff’s Deputy and a UHP trooper, Coonrod said.
The critical incident protocols are designed to provide an impartial investigation that is fair and objective, she said, using uniform protocols that are aligned with all agencies involved.
“Carbon County is about 40 miles east of Emery County and was not involved in the incident,” Coonrod said. “So our office will be handling the investigation from this point.”
Additionally, she said, the incident involved officers from both state and county law enforcement agencies, so the Utah State Bureau of Investigations will assist in the investigation. The findings will be released to the Carbon County Attorney’s Office, the Emery County Attorney’s Office and Utah Department of Public Safety.
Further details will likely be released by the Carbon County Sheriff’s Office, Coonrod said, including dashcam footage as soon as it can be released without compromising the investigation.
The identity of the man has not been released.
Officer-involved shooting in Cedar City
On Nov. 11 in Cedar City a 53-year-old man was killed in an officer-involved shooting at a residence near the 100 West block of Sunset Drive just before 1 p.m., after the Cedar City Emergency Dispatch Center received a 911 call reporting the man was making threats toward family members, as well as toward law enforcement, according to police.
The suspect approached the officers while pointing a handgun in their direction, at which point the officer fired three rounds at the man.
The Critical Incident Task Force conducted an investigation into the incident and found that the police officer who fired his weapon — an eight-year veteran of the department — “was legally justified in using deadly force.”
Utah Attorney General’s Office studying officer-involved shootings
In 2018, police officers in Utah fired at 30 individuals and killed 19, making it one of the deadliest years in recent history. Each month of last year, someone died from lethal force used by a law enforcement agent, according to a statement released by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes in May.
A study conducted by the Utah Attorney General’s Office compared the number of officer-involved shootings in 2018 with previous years in an effort to discover trends and factors contributing to the higher rate of police-involved deaths.
Although the data has not yet been released, Reyes said in the statement, “it is important to note that the trend for 2018 has not carried over into 2019.”
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