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OGDEN — Two police officers were justified in their use of force when they shot a man in July at a medical clinic in Roy, according to the Weber County Attorney’s Office.
Donald Lee Joseph died in the early morning hours of July 31 after being shot by police. Investigators said Joseph broke into the Tanner Clinic for the purpose of stealing OxyContin and other opioid pills. Ogden police officer Thomas Caygle and South Ogden police officer Curtis Ricks fired at Joseph after he surprised Caygle at close range, the investigation found.
In a Nov. 25 letter to the police chiefs of Ogden and South Ogden, first obtained by the Standard-Examiner, Weber County Attorney Christopher F. Allred details the events of that morning.
The Roy City Police Department was called to the Tanner Clinic just before 1:30 that morning when a night custodian saw a man dressed in black and wearing a bandana on his face attempting to break into the building. According to the letter, officer Preston Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene.
Johnson saw Joseph leaving through a broken window on the front door. He ordered Joseph to stop, the letter says, but Joseph “looked right at” him and then went back into the building.
The custodian was still in the building at this time and had barricaded herself in a windowless exam room on the west side of the clinic.
Because of concern for her safety, responding officers decided to enter the clinic, the letter says. Initially, five officers, including Ricks, entered the building with a K-9 officer and announced their presence. The letter says they “quickly realized they would need additional officers and another K-9 to be able to effectively search the clinic due to the layout of the building.”
That’s when Caygle responded with an additional K-9, the letter says.
As the officers began to search the clinic, Johnson spotted Joseph again as he attempted to “circle around behind” the officers and move into the north waiting room. Johnson again ordered Joseph to show his hands and surrender, but Joseph did not comply.
Ricks relayed to Caygle that Joseph was still moving around the building and was in the same west area the custodian was hiding in, the letter says. Caygle kept his K-9 on a short leash, it says, so it would not accidentally bite the custodian or another officer.
The officers searched down hallways, posting officers as they went so Joseph couldn’t circle around behind them. Ricks was covering Caygle with a “less lethal” bean bag shotgun, the letter says.
When the officers reached the west hallway and began to turn north, Caygle’s K-9 cut in front of him to his right. According to the letter, Joseph had been standing just inside a doorway and appeared to be waiting for an opportunity to attack.
Caygle later recalled seeing what he described as a “spike” in Joseph’s right hand and said Joseph had raised it as if to stab Caygle.
Caygle backed away from Joseph, who came within about 2 feet of him, and his K-9 began biting Joseph. The letter says this account is supported by body camera footage from Ricks.
Caygle drew his pistol as he retreated backward and can be heard on body camera footage yelling at Joseph to “Drop your hands!” Ricks fired two bean bag rounds at Joseph, but the letter says this “did not appear to slow” him.
“Caygle then fired at the suspect multiple times,” the letter says.
Although the shots brought Joseph to the ground at Caygle’s feet as Caygle backed into an emergency door, Ricks said it appeared that Joseph was still trying to get to Caygle with his weapon. “Ricks fired one additional shot with his pistol at the suspect,” the letter says.
A third officer then kicked the knife out of Joseph’s hand. Joseph had been shot “multiple times.”
He was transported to an emergency room, where he was pronounced dead. He was found to be in possession of “multiple bottles” with “hundreds” of opioid pills.
“It was reasonable,” Allred writes, “for Officer Caygle to believe that Joseph was trying to stab and kill him. Therefore it was reasonable for Caygle to believe that the use of deadly force was necessary” to prevent death or serious injury.
Allred similarly found that Ricks was justified in his shooting.
The custodian and the officers involved were not injured in the incident.