Review or investigation? Police, prosecutor in conflict over next step in Utah gun-pointing incident

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WOODS CROSS — The Davis County attorney would conduct a criminal investigation — not a review as the Woods Cross police chief suggested — should an incident involving an officer pointing a gun at 10-year-old black child land on his desk.

Chief Chad Soffe said at [news conference Monday"](< style=>) that he asked Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings to "review" the June 6 encounter outside a Woods Cross home, and emphasized that it wouldn't be an investigation.

But Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said Tuesday his office does not do "reviews."

Rawlings said he told the city on Tuesday that if the department refers the incident to his office, prosecutors would conduct a criminal investigation into the officer's conduct.

"If the incident is transmitted to us by Woods Cross city, we will treat it as other cases submitted to our office for a prosecutorial determination — either file criminal charges or decline as the evidence allows," he said.

Rawlings said when a case is presented, his office is not bound by what the requesting law enforcement agency has done or not done.

"We will investigate as we determine necessary to make an appropriate criminal screening decision," he said.

More information or evidence is better than less, Rawlings said.

"We want to learn and understand everything there is to know from all sources available. If additional investigation needs to be done to make a decision, it will be," he said.

Rawlings said he couldn't estimate a time frame for the investigation, "as we do not have a case submitted to our office to make any initial assessments concerning what needs to be done."

Soffe did not return calls seeking comment Tuesday.

On Monday, the chief said that he asked the county attorney's office to "review" the incident in order to be "totally transparent and to alleviate some of the concerns brought up by the media and other people in the public."

The boy's mother has called for an independent investigation of the incident, as has the NAACP Tri-State Conference for Idaho, Nevada and Utah, and the group Mormon Women for Ethical Government. Organizers for Black Lives Matter Utah have called for the officer to be fired.

Karra Porter, an attorney for Hrubes family, said she wondered why the county attorney's office would even agree to do a review as the chief suggested.

"Turns out apparently they didn't," she said. "I don’t understand why a straightforward request for an investigation has turned into something bizarre like this."

Porter said it appears that Soffe's call for a review was an effort to appease the public.

"I gotta tell you my antennae are up because what I'm seeing doesn't make any sense to me," she said.

Woods Cross police policy does not require an investigation when an officer draws but does not discharge a firearm, Soffe said. The officer, Soffe declared, did not violate any of the department's policies and responded in accordance with police protocol and training.

"We're not investigating the actions," Soffe said Monday. "We're reviewing them to see if there's any changes we might be able to make in our policies."

Soffe said the information his office would provide the county attorney is based on the officer's account of the incident. He said police tried but were unable to find other witnesses — even though at least one witness has been identified by name in various news reports.

Porter said investigation in her mind means simply getting at the facts. "When you're saying we're not willing to have an investigation, that tells me you're not willing to have somebody determine what the facts are," she said.

Conflicting stories have emerged about how a Woods Cross police officer came to draw his gun on a 10-year-old boy while responding to the report of several people involved in a shooting last week.

Jerri Hrubes said her son DJ, who she said is mentally delayed and sight-impaired, was playing in the front yard when the incident occurred. The family lives in Montana, but returns to Utah about once a month so DJ can receive medical treatment.

Members of the Hrubes family and two passersby who saw the encounter have said the officer pulled up in front of the house, got out of his car, pointed a gun at DJ's head and told him to get on the ground — an order they say the boy complied with immediately.

The officer then drove off without explaining his actions to her or her son, Hrubes said. She said the officer returned later in the day to apologize to DJ, telling the boy, "I am so sorry I pointed my gun at you."

The family has not sought to take legal action, but that is a possibility.

"If no independent investigation of these events is undertaken by authorities, that will leave the family very few options," Porter said.

Woods Cross police has given at least four different versions of what transpired between the officer and the boy, Porter said.

Soffe on Monday described a chaotic and rapidly developing situation after Centerville police received a call about a shooting last Thursday at 12:37 p.m. After a chase through Centerville and Farmington, the suspects fled from their car in West Bountiful and ran through a church parking lot. Two of those in the car were described as black, Soffe said.

Woods Cross police in earlier statements, however, did not say any of the suspects were black. Last Thursday, police said one suspect was described as Hispanic but the race of the second suspect was unknown by officers.

An officer driving with his lights and siren on saw a black male running toward the street about 380 yards from the church, Soffe said. The officer pulled over and told him he wanted to talk to him and the young man looked at the officer and started running across the front lawn of the yard, he said.

"Our officer draws his gun and gives commands for the young man to get on the ground, thinking this is one of suspects we are looking for," the chief said.

"Once the suspect is face down on the ground, my officer approaches him from in front of his car to the sidewalk, as he gets closer he realizes this is not the suspect, he immediately holsters his weapon at the same time that this young man's mother comes out and is yelling, 'This is my 10-year-old son.'"

Soffe said the officer told the boy and his mother that police were looking for two armed suspects and that they needed to go inside their house. The encounter, he said, "was very short — far less than a minute."

There is no body camera footage of the incident. The chief said the officer, whom he described as a seasoned veteran, did not activate his camera.

"If we activate our camera every time we assist another agency, we'd have thousands of hours of videotape," Soffe said.

He did say department policy calls for officers to turn the camera on when they confront a suspect.

"But in this case, it happened so quickly … so I do not blame him one bit for not thinking about, 'I've got to have my camera on before I get out and confront this suspect who may have a gun.'"

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Dennis Romboy
Dennis Romboy is an editor and reporter for the Deseret News. He has covered a variety of beats over the years, including state and local government, social issues and courts. A Utah native, Romboy earned a degree in journalism from the University of Utah. He enjoys cycling, snowboarding and running.


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