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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from the family of Dillon Taylor, an unarmed 20-year-old Utah man who was shot and killed by police in 2014.
U.S. District Judge David Nuffer ruled Friday against the claim that Salt Lake police officer Bron Cruz used excessive force. The judge in a written order said the facts show Cruz acted reasonably under the circumstances, so he is protected by a Utah law granting immunity to officers in certain cases. The judge also tossed a claim of deliberate indifference on the part of Salt Lake City, Cruz's employer.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office determined the shooting was legally justified in 2014, but the killing sparked outrage.
In the 55-page ruling, Nuffer acknowledged Taylor's death remains deeply felt by his family and "presents important issues to the community as a whole." The judge said the law exempting governments from liability in some cases can lead to outcomes seen as harsh or unjust.
Taylor's estate had alleged in the 2015 civil suit that Cruz acted needlessly and without justification when he escalated the encounter and fired the deadly shots. They contended Salt Lake officers were trained to shoot to kill first and then avoid accountability.
On Aug. 11, 2014, Salt Lake police were called to a report of a possible man with a gun near 2100 S. State, where police received a report of three men flashing a gun.
Cruz's body camera recorded the encounter as he spotted Taylor, who kept walking while his brother Jerrail Taylor and their cousin Adam Thayne obeyed Cruz's commands to put their hands up.
"No, fool," Dillon Taylor is heard saying, moments before he lifts his shirt and takes his hands out of his waistband. Cruz fired and fatally struck Taylor twice, in the chest and stomach.
An emotional Cruz later said he was "100 percent convinced" that Taylor had a gun and thought he might be killed because he was too late to fire, court documents show.
Ahead of Friday, Nuffer dismissed other claims after attorneys on both sides asked him to do so.
In the Friday ruling, he wrote that "there is no way to reset or change the past. Yet being mindful of the past can guide future decisions and conduct to avoid similar unfortunate consequences."