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Armed man shot in West Valley police department sent to prison

(Derek Petersen)


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WEST JORDAN — The morning of April 29, James Ramsey Kammeyer Jr. went into the West Valley City Police Department lobby with a gun and pointed it at a clerk and police officers.

"He hoped some police officer, perhaps some member of the public, would shoot him and end his misery," defense attorney Dean Zabriskie said Monday. "It was the wrong thing to do. Had he not been under mental health burdens he was bearing, chances are this never would have happened. … He was caught up entirely in his own self-destruction."

Third District Judge Bruce Lubeck said he understood and sympathized with Kammeyer's struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide, but "when you cross that line and say, 'I'm going to involve other people,' I think that's where our society becomes a lot less forgiving."

The judge sentenced Kammeyer to three terms of zero to five years in prison for threat of terrorism, aggravated assault and use of a firearm by a restricted person, all third-degree felonies. He ordered that the threat of terrorism sentence run consecutive to the other two, which will run concurrent.

"It's very difficult to say that for wanting to kill yourself you will go to prison, but it was the choices you made and how you did it," Lubeck said.

Kammeyer, 40, pleaded guilty to the charges in October. Two additional third-degree felony aggravated assault charges were dismissed in exchange for his plea.

Zabriskie said Kammeyer's life was marked by difficulties, including abuse and the death of his mother and first wife. He suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which had worsened after Kammeyer was given medication.

"He was in deep depression. He wanted to die," Zabriskie said. "He had not slept for several days. He wanted his life to end at that time, and he said he didn't give any thought … to the emotional damage that was the result of those brief moments."


When you cross that line and say, 'I'm going to involve other people,' I think that's where our society becomes a lot less forgiving.

–Third District Judge Bruce Lubeck


On April 29, Kammeyer entered the police lobby at 3575 S. Market St. (2790 West) and said he wanted to report a crime.

The man asked if he could speak to the officer in private and if he would come out from behind the protective glass. Just as the officer was about to step out into the main lobby, he asked Kammeyer to take his hands out his pockets so he could see them.

Kammeyer took out a handgun and pointed it at the officer.

Sgt. Jeff Conger, who was upstairs, heard the call go out on a police radio about a man in the lobby with a gun. He raced down the stairwell and opened the door and reported seeing Kammeyer point a gun at him from about 10 feet away. Conger reacted by firing several shots while trying to take cover.

Kammeyer was struck twice in the arm. After being treated by doctors, he was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill determined the shooting was legally justified.

Kammeyer swallowed and paused only briefly before addressing the judge Monday.

"I do take full responsibility for my actions," he said. "I admit that I did wrong. I wasn't thinking about the emotional damage that could be caused. I'm very, very sorry. I can't even express the regret and remorse I have for my actions that day."


You had every opportunity to change your direction, your thought process. You could have walked away. Instead (you) made a decision to pull a gun from your pocket and point it at me.

–Michelle Vaughn


Kammeyer said his 231 days in jail helped him see the effect his actions had on those he encountered that day, including the police officers involved.

"I am very thankful that no one else was harmed and that I was harmed only minimally," he said.

Kammeyer asked that he be able to write to the officers, as well as the clerk, Michelle Vaughn. Vaughn wrote a letter that was read in court.

"You had every opportunity to change your direction, your thought process," she wrote. "You could have walked away. Instead (you) made a decision to pull a gun from your pocket and point it at me."

Vaughn said she relives that morning, the look on Kammeyer's face, staring down the barrel of a gun. She said she has been injured emotionally and psychologically and that she now suffers from PTSD.

"Although I will never forget what happened, I have made the conscious decision to forgive you," she wrote. "I forgive you only because I deserve a chance to finally move on in my life."

The gun Kammeyer was carrying was not loaded, but prosecutor Matthew Hansen said it was significant that Kammeyer pointed it at people. He said he could have just said he had a weapon.

"I would ask this court not to lose sight of the act," Hansen said. "Mr. Kammeyer walked into a police lobby with a gun and pointed that gun at people's heads. There's a lot of history … but I would just ask you to not lose sight of this act."

The night before the shooting, West Jordan police were called to a domestic dispute between Kammeyer and his wife. He was charged May 1 with criminal mischief and two counts of domestic violence in the presence of a child.

Kammeyer's wife, Rebecca, cried before and after the hearing and said West Jordan police should have taken the gun from the home that night. She said the couple has a daughter, 8, who loves her dad.

"He wasn't trying to hurt people," she said. "He was going to kill himself."

In December 2012, West Valley police were called to deal with Kammeyer after he cut his wrists and "told officers at that time that he wanted to die suicide by cop," a report states. He told officers he was a registered sex offender and his wife was taking his children away from him.

Court records show Kammeyer pleaded guilty to sex abuse of a child, a second-degree felony, in 1999. He was scheduled to go off the sex-offender registry in January if he didn't break any other laws.

Video Contribution: Sam Penrod

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