Prosecutors order South Salt Lake officers justified in shooting with man suffering from mental health crisis
Two South Salt Lake police officers were right when they fatally shot a man in September, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Friday.
On the night of September 26, Jebb Muir, 44, called 911 around 11:10 p.m. to report that he had accidentally fired a gun and believed he had fired into his neighbors’ house. During the call, Muir threatened the police – telling the operator he would kill her if a SWAT team was sent, according to a letter Gill wrote detailing the prosecutors’ findings.
Officers had gone to Muir’s home earlier that evening when his wife called police for help collecting belongings from the home at around 6:50 p.m., reporting that Muir was “in a psychosis” and angry, it said in Gil’s letter.
Muir was apparently not home at the time, but three officers responded and waited outside while his wife removed her belongings. At one point, Muir rode a bicycle to the home, but the woman was able to get her belongings “without incident” and officers left around 7:30 p.m., the letter said.
The police shoot
When Muir called police later that night to report the accidental shooting, he pleaded with the officers, who had previously responded, and stated he would acquiesce.
When officers arrived in the area near 450 East Stephie Marie Lane in South Salt Lake, one of them called Muir and asked him to come outside, but Muir declined, Gill’s letter said.
While police were monitoring the home, a neighbor north of Muir’s home called 911 to report that a man with a gun was standing in his driveway and asked him “if he wanted to die.” Sergeant Clayton Anderson then saw a man fitting that description riding his bicycle north onto the 400 East, according to the letter.
As Anderson pulled his squad car onto Robert Avenue, he now saw the same man by the side of the road from his bicycle with what appeared to be a gun, he said in a written statement. He told police officer Zayne Ruth to get into the passenger seat of the squad car, handed Ruth his loaded rifle, and then the two drove off to intercept the man.
When Anderson stopped the car near the man who was later confirmed to be Muir, he appeared bent over. Anderson told Ruth to get out and walk around the side of the vehicle. As Ruth did so, Ruth shouted orders, “Hands, hands, hands!” as Anderson also got out of the car and unsholstered his pistol, the letter said.
Body camera footage shown at a news conference on Friday showed an almost immediate barrage of gunfire, which documents said came from Muir and Ruth’s guns. Anderson said in a statement that he “felt a projectile hit the side of the head” when Muir fired his gun at Anderson.
Anderson dropped to the ground to avoid being hit again. When he could see Muir’s “prone silhouette,” he fired a round.
Muir was later pronounced dead at the scene, and Anderson was grazed by a bullet in the side of his head. Nobody else was hurt.
Body camera footage
Body camera footage was presented Friday by Ruth and two other responding officers, but none were shown from Anderson’s perspective.
“There are other body-worn cameras from other officers, but that wasn’t relevant to the shooting analysis that we have,” Gill said Friday. “The [footage shown] is as good as it gets… As they open their door, Officer Ruth stands up. As soon as he gets up, the exchange of fire begins and the shooting begins.”
Gill said he couldn’t say definitively who fired first, but evidence showed an “almost simultaneous” exchange of gunfire. His letter said evidence found at the scene indicated that Muir fired three shots from a shotgun, Ruth fired 12 shots from a rifle, and Anderson fired one shot from his pistol.
A knife, bottle of vodka, pistol, scope, and magazines and boxes of ammunition were also recovered from Muir’s backpack, the documents say. The Utah Medical Examiner’s office found that Muir had a blood alcohol content of .129, more than double the legal limit, according to Gill’s letter.
Gill’s office spoke to Muir’s family Friday morning, who informed him they did not have access to psychiatric care for Muir when they realized he was struggling, Gill said. They also told Gill they hope law enforcement will receive improved training on how to deal with those experiencing mental health crises.
“It’s a tragedy for all of us – I don’t like scenarios like that, it’s no one’s win,” Gil said. “It would be a sad comment if we didn’t take the moment to acknowledge that we are not funding our mental health services in our community, which are in crisis, so that families like yours can access the help and treatment , that they need. ”
Gill’s office will not pursue criminal charges against the officers, and he said the officers’ use of deadly force helped them reasonably believe their lives were in danger. In a December statement, the South Salt Lake Civilian Review Board also ruled that the officers’ use of force was justified.