Deadly Taylorsville police shooting was justified, DA rules – although key evidence disappeared

The 11 police officers who fired at least 25 rounds at 20-year-old Anei Gabriel Joker during a shooting in Taylorsville more than a year ago were justified in their deadly use of force, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Friday .

But a key piece of evidence in the deadly police shooting has gone missing, Gill announced Friday: a bullet that pierced a detective’s chest.

The detective survived the shooting in December 2021. And based on body camera footage from that night, a paramedic originally found the bullet, Gill said. The paramedic then handed the bullet to Alan Belcher, one of the 11 officers who shot Joker, footage shows, and the officer pocketed it.

That bullet was never logged in evidence, Gill said Friday.

“Investigators later asked Officer Belcher about the bullet,” Gil said. “Officer Belcher’s attorney said Belcher did not recall receiving a bullet that day.”

Joker was taken to a hospital following the shooting, which took place in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven at 4110 S. Redwood Road. He was pronounced dead later that night.

the shoot

(Screenshot from WVCPD body cam footage) Body cam footage shows police fatally shooting Anei Gabriel Joker during a shootout with officers December 1, 2021 in Taylorsville. Joker died later that night.

Gill said officers were looking for Joker on December 1, 2021 in connection with the rape of a 15-year-old girl – and a shooting that later took place at the girl’s home. The girl told police Joker had her iPhone, so officers tracked the phone to a car at the supermarket.

joker was sit in the passenger seat of the vehicle. Four other adults and an infant were also in the vehicle, Gill said. The officer who found the car then called for backup to prevent the vehicle from leaving the scene.

Two of the vehicle occupants had gone to the store where police took them into custody. The officers then ordered the remaining occupants to get out of the car. Two agreed, but Joker stayed inside with the infant.

Joker then began lifting the baby in front of the passenger window, and officers learned he may be armed, Gill said.

A Unified Police officer called Joker’s cell phone and asked what it would take to get Joker out of the car. Joker agreed to hand over the baby if the officer gave him a lighter, Gill said.

A previous passenger then used the vehicle’s key fob to open the tailgate, and Joker placed the baby in the rear cargo area before moving back to the front of the car. The police retrieved the child and threw a lighter at Joker.

Joker then asked for 10 minutes to “smoke a blunt” and make calls before coming out, Gill said. After 10 minutes, Joker told police he didn’t want to come out because he couldn’t get his mother on the phone, but told officers he would come out if his brother got to the scene.

Joker’s brother arrived about two minutes later, along with other friends of Joker’s, who are showing body camera footage. Joker had allegedly posted a video on social media showing police vehicles surrounding him with the caption “shootout,” according to documents released by prosecutors.

When Joker still refused to come out 30 minutes later – 90 minutes after the vehicle pulled up outside the supermarket – authorities fired 17 non-lethal pepper balls into the car’s open tailgate. Eight seconds after the first pepperball was fired, Joker opened the passenger door and fired at officers, Gill said.

After Joker fired his gun, officers returned fire and three officers were injured during the shootout. The Utah Office of the Medical Examiner determined that Joker had sustained “40 gunshot wounds/malfunctions.”

It remains unclear how many times Joker fired his gun, Gill said, but video evidence shows Joker fired at least one shot. Joker may have fired as many as 5 shots, investigators determined, as the gun he fired still held 18 rounds but could hold up to 23.

“All evening leading up to the shooting, Mr. Joker has expressed his willingness to endanger and risk people’s lives,” Gill said Friday. “Mr. Joker gave officers reason to believe that he posed a threat to their lives and that deadly force was required to prevent death or serious injury to those around them.”

The Missing Ball

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses the 2021 fatal police shooting of Anei Gabriel Joker during a news conference on Friday, March 10, 2023.

One of the three officers injured in the shooting — a West Valley City Police detective — suffered a gunshot wound to the chest and another to the lower leg. The other two officers were injured by shrapnel or another object, according to documents from the prosecutor’s office.

The bullet that entered the detective’s leg remains there and cannot be subjected to ballistic analysis, the documents say. The bullet that pierced his chest, which a paramedic found and turned over to officer Belcher, was never recovered.

“The absence of the ball is unfortunate,” Gill said on Friday. “It prevents us from determining which gun the penetrating bullet was fired from [the detective’s] Breast.”

Though investigators can’t examine the bullet, Gill said, based on its trajectory and other information from the investigation, it’s unlikely it was “friendly fire” or a fellow shot.

Prosecutors have declined to pursue allegations of obstruction of justice against Belcher at this time, Gill said Friday, noting that there is “insufficient evidence for us as prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the missing bullet was involved.” was removed with intent to obstruct investigation”.

The shooting was the 29th police shooting in Utah of 2021, according to a database maintained by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Prior to the Taylorsville shooting, Joker had previously been wounded by Cottonwood Heights police in a 2017 shooting in Cottonwood Heights when Joker was 17 years old. Gill later decided that the officer was justified in that shooting. Deadly Taylorsville police shooting was justified, DA rules – although key evidence disappeared

Justin Scaccy

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