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SALT LAKE CITY — A Murray police officer was legally justified when he shot a man suspected of burglary in the face, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office ruled Tuesday.
Responding to calls of a suspicious person in the neighborhood, Murray police officer Jimmy Haas confronted Joby James Romano, 46, at Southwood Park on Aug. 9, ultimately shooting and injuring him. Romano survived the encounter and has since been booked into the Salt Lake County Jail.
Haas was arrived at the park, 6150 S. 725 East, where Romano had reportedly gone into a public restroom. Callers reported that Romano had been wandering a nearby neighborhood and had been seen leaving a parked camper trailer.
Haas checked the restroom for additional exits and was just approaching the door when Romano opened it, according to a report from the district attorney's office.
Romano stood holding the door open and staring at the officer as he asked him to come talk to him, according to the report. He then lifted his shirt, revealing what appeared to be a handgun.
"Officer Haas said he quickly drew his own weapon, but Mr. Romano was quicker than he and had already brought the gun up and pointed it at officer Haas' face," the report states. "Officer Haas said he believed Mr. Romano was going to shoot him."
Haas pulled the trigger but the gun didn't fire, the report states. Romano continued to point the gun at Haas' head as the officer fixed the malfunction, then turned and ran. Romano ran a short distance, turning and pointing the gun at Haas, before stopping and pointing the gun at the officer. Haas fired, shooting Romano once in the face.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill determined that Haas' belief that he was in danger, and his subsequent use of potentially deadly force, were justified.
Investigators later found that Romano's gun was a black, carbon dioxide-powered pellet gun with the indicative orange tip removed form the barrel. The pellet gun had been stolen from the trailer, police determined, along with the clothes Romano was wearing.
In the bathroom, police found Romano's clothes, pellets for the gun and CO2 cartridges taken from the trailer.
Romano has since been charged in 3rd District Court with burglary and assault of a peace officer, second-degree felonies, and theft, a third-degree felony.
State court records indicate Romano's criminal history in Utah dates back to 1988, including misdemeanor convictions for intoxication, domestic violence, assault, theft, and possession of a controlled substance; and felony convictions for drug possession, burglary, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute.