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Police: Man shot by Salt Lake officers was armed with a gun

(Jeffrey D. Allred/Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — As the investigation into a weekend officer-involved shooting in Salt Lake City continued Monday, questions are being raised about whether the man who was shot should have even been on the street.

The shooting victim is a convicted felon on parole and was arrested just two weeks ago after police found him to be in possession of a loaded gun and 10 "twist baggies" of meth, according to a Salt Lake County Jail report.

But the officer who booked Palm Samiuela Lautaimi, 28, into jail also noted that Adult Probation and Parole officers declined to pick him up that day because it was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.

"AP&P was contacted but would not respond to transport him back to the prison due to the holiday," the report states.

Three days later, after no charges were filed, Lautaimi was released from jail.

Salt Lake police confirmed Monday that the man was armed when he was shot Sunday.

Lautaimi, of Salt Lake City, remained hospitalized Monday. Salt Lake Police Sgt. Robin Heiden said his condition had stabilized and he is expected to survive.

Although police declined to name the victim, family members on Facebook identified him.

"I pray that you pull through bro," one woman wrote. "You have all of us praying for you! We love you, and keep fighting!!"

"Please pull through so we can see that big smile soon!" wrote another.

Recent arrest

Lautaimi, who was paroled from the Utah State Prison in September of 2014, was arrested Jan. 17 in West Valley City for investigation of possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person and drug possession with intent to distribute, according to Salt Lake County Jail records.

Lautaimi was pulled over by a West Valley police officer, but he refused to get out of his car "and kept making quick movements towards his pockets," the report states.

The officer had to "physically remove" Lautaimi from the car, according to the report. That's when a loaded .22 caliber handgun was found in his right front pocket, along with bags of meth, police said.

But the case was never sent to the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office to consider filing criminal charges, said District Attorney Sim Gill. Court records show that no warrant was issued for a possible parole violation, either. Because of that, the jail released him on Jan. 20.

West Valley police said the case had been sent to the U.S. Attorney's Office to be screened for possible federal charges. The U.S. Attorney's Office confirmed Monday that it had recently received the case and was still in the process of reviewing it.

Utah Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Adams said the release of Lautaimi is being reviewed as well as the report that indicated a parole officer declined to respond that day because of the holiday weekend. "While we are still reviewing this situation, if that statement is true, it is an unacceptable practice as far as this administration is concerned," she said. Adams said the "proper procedure" when a parolee is arrested is the person is booked into jail while a corrections officer obtains a 72-hour hold and an arrest warrant for the parole violation.

"There are times we make arrangements to bring someone directly back to prison, but that is an exception," she said.

Questions remain

Meanwhile, many questions remained Monday about what prompted the weekend shooting. Salt Lake police said most of those questions will have to be answered at a later time by the district attorney's office once its investigation is completed.

Just before 4 p.m. Sunday, two officers attempted to talk to a man spotted near 1340 S. Main. On Monday, Heiden said the man was actually "in the roadway" when officers stopped to talk to him.

Heiden could not say Monday what words were exchanged but noted that "the male became violent with officers." The man then started to run away from the officers. "Early on," the officers observed a gun in his hand, Heiden said.

The short chase ended half a block later near 1340 S. Major St. (50 East). At that point, the man was "still holding a gun," Heiden said.

Cellphone video recorded by a witness who was across the street that was later posted on Facebook shows two officers pointing their guns at the man with a third officer standing behind them. It appears in the video that the man is possibly holding a gun to his head. Heiden declined to comment Monday if that was the case.

'Put your weapon down'

Barbara, who didn't want to give her last name, said she saw the shooting unfold outside the window of her mobile home.

"I heard an officer yelling, 'Put your weapon down. Put your weapon down.' And I ran to my window, and it happened so fast. But what I seen was he was holding a gun to his head, and the next thing I know, maybe a couple of seconds later, I just heard, like maybe, pop-pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, about eight times, and he was on the ground," she said.

Barbara, who said the incident was very hard to watch, believes police shot too many times. But she said she also believes the officers were threatened by the man's actions.

"Just by him not listening to what they were telling him to do, to put his weapon down. He didn't do it. They said it several times," she said.

As one of the man's arms starts to move, seven shots are heard on the video being fired. Heiden could not say Monday if one or both officers fired their weapons, but she confirmed that two officers were placed on standard paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the shooting investigation. Both officers have been with the department five years or less, she said.

The sergeant did not say Monday what exactly was said or done that prompted the officers to shoot the man, noting only that the officers were "responding to a perceived threat."

Body camera video recorded by both officers was collected and will be used as part of the investigation, Heiden said. West Valley police will also conduct an investigation per the Salt Lake County Officer-Involved Critical Incident Investigation Protocol.

Heiden could not say Monday what charges the man potentially faces once he is released from the hospital.

Lautaimi, who uses the moniker "Cujo," has been in and out of the Utah State Prison since 2008. He was sent to prison at the beginning of 2008 after being convicted in a pair of drive-by shootings in Salt Lake City. He was last paroled from prison in September of 2014.

After Lautaimi was shot, a backup officer is seen in the Facebook video rolling up to the scene with his red and blue lights flashing and his siren on. The officer can be seen getting out of the car and immediately drawing his weapon and pointing it at the bystander as the man puts his hands in the air and gets on the ground.

Police eventually determined that man was not involved and he was released. Heiden said for officer safety, it's protocol to make sure that there is no one else involved or any victim sympathizers near the scene. It's the same reason people in hostage situations are ordered to exit a building with their hands up. Heiden said the goal in such scenarios is to secure a scene and then determine who is involved and who isn't.

Contributing: Sandra Yi

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