D.A.: Officer justified in shooting man who lunged at him with knife

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SALT LAKE CITY — A Salt Lake police officer who shot a man in late November was legally justified in his actions, an investigation determined.

Officer Bryan Lutz shot Travis Michael Keim, 25, while trying to defend himself from what he believed to be a potential knife attack, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill concluded in a letter sent to Salt Lake Police Chief Chris Burbank.

The results of the investigation were released Wednesday.

On Nov. 29, Lutz was among the officers who responded to a call from a woman who said that Keim was suicidal and had not taken his medication. The woman reported that he had knives in his apartment at 164 S. 900 West and was trying to "blow up the apartment" by turning on the natural gas on the stove, the letter states.

The Salt Lake Fire Department responded to manage the natural gas situation shortly after Lutz and officer Alma Sweeny arrived.

Upon arrival, one officer spoke with Keim who was standing near an upstairs open window, and asked him to come out of the building and talk with him. Keim did not obey the officer, who had responded to another case involving Keim several weeks earlier.

Because of the natural gas threat, Sweeny and Lutz decided to go inside the building to retrieve Keim, Gill said. After forcing their way into the unit, the officers said they could smell and see a "cloud" of natural gas.


When the two officers found Keim, they identified themselves and told the suspect to leave the apartment. Keim entered a bedroom and the officers found him standing by a bed and holding what looked to both officers like a knife, according to Gill.

Lutz told the man to put the knife down, an order which Keim did not obey. Keim then used the bedpost to push himself toward Lutz, lunging at the officer, Gill wrote. Keim's movement caused clothes and other items on the floor to shift, causing Lutz to fall backwards.

Lutz told investigators that he feared for his life and thought Keim was going to stab him. He shot once and hit Keim, who fell and dropped what was in his hand, according to Gill's report. Both officers dragged Keim out of the apartment, searched him for weapons and took him to receive medical treatment on the scene and at a hospital.

Investigators found a flashlight near the area where Keim fell after Lutz shot him. They also found many knives, one of which matched Lutz's description of the weapon, some of which were located on and near the bed where Keim was standing, the letter states.

Investigators determined that the officers were within their rights to enter the building and acted according to protocol. Lutz and Sweeny had to navigate the challenges of being in close proximity to the suspect and allegations of unstable mental health, Gill said.

"When Keim lunged at officer Lutz and pulled Lutz's footing out from under him, officer Lutz had a reasonable belief that his use of deadly force against Keim was necessary to prevent officer Lutz's death or serious bodily injury," the report states.

Keim was subsequently charged with attempted aggravated arson, a second-degree felony, and was scheduled to appear in court Wednesday.

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Whitney Evans


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