Update: Utah County Attorney David Leavitt said in a press conference Wednesday that prosecutors have not decided if they will pursue the death penalty against Matt Hoover.
"The question of the death penalty is premature and something we'll discuss at a later date," Leavitt said.
PROVO — The man accused of shooting and killing Provo police officer Joseph Shinners was formally charged Wednesday with aggravated murder, a capital offense.
That means Matt Frank Hoover, 40, of Fillmore, could be eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted.
Hoover is also charged in 4th District Court with assault on a police officer, theft by receiving stolen property and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, all second-degree felonies; plus failing to stop for at an officer's commands and two counts of drug possession, third-degree felonies.
Press conference livestream
Prosecutors have requested Hoover be held in the Utah County Jail without bail.
On Jan. 5, officers from the Provo and Orem police departments were attempting to arrest Hoover, who was spotted in a pickup truck in the parking lot of Bed Bath and Beyond, 50 W. University Parkway in Orem.
Hoover had two warrants out for his arrest and had allegedly made threatening comments toward police that he did not want to go back to jail.
Officers surrounded Hoover's truck, approaching from both the driver's side and passenger side. Police gave Hoover commands to surrender, but he disobeyed them, according to a police affidavit filed in court.
Another officer reached into the truck through the passenger door to try and pull Hoover out. Hoover, however, "put the vehicle in reverse, and backed into a police vehicle. Hoover then put the vehicle in drive, drove forward sideswiping a storefront, then drove the vehicle (west) through a parking lot before coming to a stop," the report says.
When the vehicle stopped, Shinners tried to help the officer on the passenger side get Hoover out of the vehicle. That's when Hoover shot Shinners once on the left side of his chest, and Shinners returned fire, striking Hoover once in the abdomen, the affidavit states.
Shinners was wearing a bullet-proof vest, but the bullet hit him in an area that was not covered. At first, other officers didn't realize Shinners had been shot. But after he stumbled away from the truck and kneeled on the pavement on one knee, other officers quickly recognized something was wrong. Shinners was rushed in a police car to a local hospital where he later died from his injury.
Hoover was in a hospital for nearly two weeks before he was released and booked into the Utah County Jail.
BREAKING: Aggravated murder charges filed against Matthew Hoover in shooting death of @ProvoPolice Officer Joseph Shinners. Gun used was stolen & he called it “purple people eater.” Judge orders Hoover be held without bail. Press conference 11am and live report on @KSL5TV at noon pic.twitter.com/fPUv8YUlgS— Sam Penrod (@KSLsampenrod) January 23, 2019
The gun Hoover used was reported stolen in December 2017, according to the affidavit. One of Hoover's associates later told police that Hoover referred to the .380 pistol as the "Purple People Eater" and the "Purple Monster."
"They said Hoover kept the firearm in his back pocket and would not go anywhere without it. They also stated Hoover routinely made comments about not going back to prison and stated he would 'shoot it out' with police," the affidavit states. "Hoover made the comment that the next time he was pulled over by police, he was going to shoot to kill and hoped he was killed."
Orem police also engaged in a chase with Hoover on Nov. 1 but called off the pursuit due to safety concerns. It was during that incident that investigators learned from Hoover's ex-wife that "Hoover had made statements to her indicating he would rather 'suicide by cop' than go back to prison," according to the report.
According to his ex-wife, Hoover "talked daily about not going back to prison and getting into a shootout with the police and that they would 'go out' like the characters in (his) favorite movie, 'Natural Born Killers,'" charging documents further state.
On Jan. 5, Hoover posted a derogatory message toward police on his Facebook page in all capital letters, the charges state.
Hoover has an extensive criminal history of mostly drug-related crimes.
In 2017, he was convicted of drug distribution. In January of 2018 he was sentenced to 120 days in jail for violating his probation. During a progress report in drug court in April, Hoover was found to be noncompliant, according to state court records.
Another warrant was issued for his arrest on Oct. 5 for failing to comply with the terms of his probation on a conviction of felony joyriding.
Hoover’s criminal record dates back to at least 1997. Over the past 20 years, he has been convicted of felony drug possession, attempted forgery, retail theft, failing to respond to an officer’s commands, theft and burglary, court records indicate.