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EAGLE MOUNTAIN — A man holding his teenage niece hostage was shot and killed by a deputy Sunday after he announced he would kill the girl following a "60-second countdown," investigators said.
Daniel Bennett Edwards, 23, died from a single gunshot to the head during a standoff with police when deputies rushed into his Eagle Mountain home to prevent him from harming the girl who was being held at knifepoint.
Deputies were called to a home at 2198 E. Summit Way shortly after 8:30 p.m. when Edwards' wife reported her husband was threatening suicide and was holding a large knife on the girl, Utah County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Cannon said.
The wife and two small children were outside when police arrived, but the teenager was still inside the home and her uncle wasn't allowing her to leave, Cannon said.
Officers made contact with Edwards and began a conversation, but the man "disengaged from deputies several times," according to Cannon.
"A couple of times he had made threats of doing a countdown but wouldn't tell deputies what would happen at the end of the countdown," he said.
When Edwards told police "he would kill the hostage in 60 seconds," deputies moved into the home about 9:30 p.m. and found Edwards holding the girl's arm with one hand and threatening her with a large kitchen or butcher knife in the other.
Edwards did not follow deputies' orders to drop the knife, according to Cannon.
"When the threat to the victim's life became immediate, a deputy fired one shot at the suspect, killing him," Cannon said. "He still had hold on her when the shot was fired."
Edwards was pronounced dead at the scene.
"We don't ever want anyone to have to make this kind of decision, but it wasn't a difficult one to make in this particular situation simply because we had a young girl whose life was in very real danger," the sergeant said. "Had they not taken this action, we would not want to see what he might have done at the end of that 60-second countdown."
Under standard department protocol, the deputy who shot Edwards was placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is investigated by the Utah County Attorney's Office. The deputy is a trained SWAT officer but wasn't there as a member of the SWAT team.
A search of state court records indicates Edwards has no significant criminal history in Utah.
"I believe he's had some minor involvements with law enforcement, but nothing that would lead us to believe that this would be an action that he would take," Cannon said.
Several neighbors heard the girl yell for help and they also heard Edwards make the 60-second threat, he said.
Investigators did not say what may have led Edwards to hold the girl — his niece by marriage — hostage and threaten to kill her.
"Everybody was expressing dismay that he would do something like this, including the victim," Cannon said.
"Exactly why he would take this course … was beyond reason," he said. "Lots of individuals have difficulty, but very few of them go to these extremes in carrying out this kind of a course of action with the apparent determination that he did."
The girl had been staying in the home with Edwards and his wife. She did not sustain any serious physical injuries, but she will be given resources to help her with any emotional trauma.
"This young girl, she's lost somebody that she has known for some time as well and went through a very traumatic thing in the last moments of his life. There are resources available and we'll make sure she has access to those," the sergeant said.
"It's hard to see a family torn apart like this. It's not an easy thing that they'll have to remember for the rest of their lives."
Contributing: Dave Cawley