08/23/2007

Man shoots at Utah officers; suspect fatally shot

By Erin Alberty
The Salt Lake Tribune
 
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah The man who was shot and killed by police outside a 7-Eleven on Wednesday fired a handgun at officers during the confrontation, police said.

The man, whose identity is known but was not being released pending notification of relatives, was shot about 10 a.m. after he was confronted by two police officers investigating why he had been sitting in his car in a handicapped parking space all morning.

Police Lt. Steve Sandquist would not say whether both officers fired or whether the man was the first to open fire.

One officer was talking to a man seated in the driver's seat of a black Mitsubishi Eclipse with California plates when gunfire erupted in the parking lot of the store at 4807 W. 3500 South, Sandquist said.

The man, who was in his mid- to late 20s, died at the scene. His body remained in the car into the afternoon as detectives investigated. A handgun was found in the vehicle Wednesday afternoon before police towed the car.

A bomb squad was called to the scene about 3 p.m. after officers found what appeared to be a grenade in the man's backpack. The grenade was later determined to be a fake.

The incident began about 6:30 a.m. when a West Valley City officer stopped at the convenience store to buy a drink and noticed a man asleep in a car parked in the handicap space, Sandquist said.

The officer returned twice and noticed the man was still there. After speaking to a clerk, the officer approached the car and awakened the man to question him. The man gave the officer unclear answers and did not have identification. The officer at some point called for backup.

Shortly after the second officer arrived, the man brandished a handgun and fired through the open driver's window, Sandquist said.

The officers' names were not released. They were put on routine paid administrative leave pending an internal review and an investigation by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

Sandquist said the man was arrested by West Valley City police in July on suspicion of nonviolent felonies, including at least one in Utah and one in California. The officers involved in the shooting did not know him, the lieutenant said.

Police are not sure where the man is from, but he was not the owner of the Eclipse, which was not listed as stolen.

Wednesday's shooting was the second fatal shooting by a police officer in West Valley City and the 10th in Utah this year. During the previous six years, Utah peace officers shot and killed an average of five people annually, according to records kept by The Salt Lake Tribune.

Copyright 2007 The Salt Lake Tribune

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