CEDAR CITY — The four Cedar City Police officers who opened fire on a suspect following a car chase in February have been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the incident.
At a news conference held inside the Cedar City Council chambers Friday morning, Garfield County Attorney Barry Huntington, whose office investigated the police officers’ use of lethal force, said, “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 who was completely noncompliant.”
Before Huntington spoke, Cedar City Police Chief Darin Adams first gave a detailed rundown of what happened, after which he showed six minutes of relevant footage from police vehicle dash cameras and body cameras.
The incident unfolded starting at about 8 p.m. on Feb. 14, when police were dispatched to a report of an aggravated assault at a residence in the 3000 North block of 125 East. The suspected assailant, identified as Larry Tessier, fled the scene in a vehicle but was soon pulled over by police officers near 2400 North Main, Adams said. During the ensuing car chase, multiple officers and an Iron County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop Tessier’s vehicle, the chief added, including performing two separate PIT maneuvers and deploying spike strips to flatten the vehicle’s tires.
“The deputy who deployed spikes repositioned himself ahead of the pursuit at the intersection of 2400 North and 400 West,” Adams said. “As Mr. Tessier turned southbound on 400 West, the deputy executed a PIT maneuver, spinning Mr. Tessier’s vehicle approximately 225 degrees. Once Mr. Tessier’s vehicle spun around, he quickly accelerated and collided head-on with Officer Tyrell Crofts’ vehicle, causing Mr. Tessier’s airbags to deploy.”
“After the collision, all officers exited their vehicles, giving commands to Mr. Tessier and he refused to comply,” Adams continued. “He revved his engine. He shifted in reverse and accelerated backwards, striking a deputy’s vehicle and going through a fence. Mr. Tessier’s vehicle was now pointing directly at officers as the officers were trying to give commands for Mr. Tessier to comply.”
However, Tessier continued to ignore the officers’ commands and shifted his vehicle into drive and began driving toward the officers, Adams said, noting that as Tessier did so, Cedar City Police Cpl. Zac Adams, along with officers Heather Daynes, Tyrell Crofts and Orlas DeMasters, “almost simultaneously” opened fire, just as Iron County Sheriff’s Deputy Devin Lauritzen moved his truck forward to block Tessier’s vehicle.
“Once the threat was stopped, and Mr. Tessier was compliant, all officers immediately transitioned and assisted in first aid, and spoke with Mr. Tessier, who apologized for his actions,” Adams added.
Tessier, who sustained multiple gunshot wounds, was subsequently taken to Cedar City Hospital and then to St. George Regional Hospital for treatment. Once he had been medically cleared following his hospital stay, he was transported back to Cedar City and booked into Iron County Jail, where he continues to be held without bail.
Iron County Attorney Chad Dotson said Tessier, who appeared at his preliminary hearing earlier this week, has been charged with six felony counts, including three counts of aggravated assault, two counts of criminal mischief and one count of intentional property destruction.
Dotson also briefly explained why Garfield County’s prosecutor was in charge of reviewing whether the officers’ use of lethal force was justified.
“It’s been reported earlier that one of the officers involved is a family member of mine,” Dotson noted. “And so I thought it prudent to have an outside independent county attorney review this and and that was what happened. We appreciate his work.”
Huntington said he appreciated the transparency and cooperation that was shown throughout the investigation.
“I appreciate all of the dash cam, body cam, and all of the other evidence that was given to me,” Huntington said. “Everyone was transparent. They gave me everything I asked for. And I also appreciated that the officers talked. A lot of times officers are reluctant to say what happened and what their thoughts and their feelings were.”
He said all four officers cooperated with the investigation.
“They told us what their what their actions were and why they did what they did,” he said, adding that this has been a crucial step in understanding the mindset of the officers to determine if their use of deadly force was reasonable.
“Their actions are justified,” Huntington said. “I would not prosecute them for doing this. They acted in the most reasonable manner they could, after less-lethal options were exhausted.”
Chief Adams said all four officers are already back to work. They had each been on paid administrative leave for a little more than one month while the Iron/Beaver/Garfield Critical Incident Task Force completed its investigation and turned the findings over to Garfield County Attorney. Although Huntington released his findings on March 19, they weren’t made public until Friday’s news conference.
Adams expressed his appreciation to the officers involved, as well as to the rest of the members of the Cedar City Police force.
“We are so grateful to each of them for their bravery and their willingness to put their lives in harm’s way to ensure our community is safe.,” Adams said. “And those who wish to do us harm are captured and held accountable through our criminal justice system. I am so very proud of our officers and for their heroism and commend them for the remarkable job they did then and do every day.”
Cedar City Mayor Maile Wilson-Edwards expressed similar thoughts as she thanked the various agencies that assisted in both the initial incident and in the follow-up investigations.
“Last but not least, I certainly want to have a special thank you to the brave men and women of the Cedar City Police Department,” she said. “Law enforcement has never been an easy job, and it seems to get be getting tougher by the day. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for everything they do, day and night, to protect our community and make it safer.”
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