2 Utah officers cleared in fatal shootings


The Deseret Morning News

SALT LAKE CITY — Investigations have concluded that South Salt Lake police officers were justified in shooting and killing two people in separate incidents last month.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office released the results of its investigations Monday. In both shootings, "the force employed ... was legally justified," investigators determined.

On Jan. 21, Ross M. Sullivan was shot and killed after a 90-minute standoff with police.

Neighbors called police after Sullivan began throwing items off the balcony of his third-story apartment at 256 E. Helm. Officers tried to talk Sullivan out of the apartment but were unsuccessful.

"Concerned for the safety of the public and the possibility that someone other than the subject was in the apartment, the officers attempted to take Mr. Sullivan into custody," according to the district attorney's review.

After police failed to subdue the man with a Taser, officers forced entry into the apartment. At that point, Sullivan lunged at police with a sword, cutting one officer. As Sullivan tried to swing at another officer, he was shot and killed by South Salt Lake police officer Jason Rasmussen.

"In this instance, the officers involved made every attempt to resolve the situation through peaceful and nonlethal means," Nate Bryan, a spokesman for the district attorney's office, said in a prepared statement Monday. "Once those attempts failed and his life was being directly threatened, officer Rasmussen acted within his rights to protect himself, his fellow officers and the community."

Two days after Sullivan was killed, South Salt Lake officers shot and killed Ronald Evan Larsen.

On the afternoon of Jan. 23, police responded to a domestic violence situation at 3100 S. Washington St. (240 West). When they arrived, police said Larsen walked onto his porch and pointed a gun at two officers.

"Both officers issued multiple commands for Mr. Larsen to drop his weapon," according to the district attorney's office. While an officer was retreating, Larsen "fired upon the officer. Once Mr. Larsen fired, both officers returned fire."

The review cleared officers Chase Hermansen and Stephen Bernards of wrongdoing in Larsen's death.

Monday, South Salt Lake police Detective Gary Keller said he was glad to have his department back at full force.

"It's stressful for any department to have an officer-involved shooting," he said. "To double it was quite stressful. It stretched our resources ... but we weathered the storm."

Copyright 2008 Deseret Morning News

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