SALT LAKE CITY — One-hundred ninety-six.
That’s how many shots 15 police officers fired at a West Valley man who had been indiscriminately shooting guns from his moving truck throughout the city last April.
The barrage of bullets left Harold Vincent Robinson, 37, dead following a dramatic chase involving several dozen police cars that ended on busy State Street after he crashed into the front of a store.
“We can talk about whether that’s too much or not. At this point they had a very viable, not a speculative, an actual viable threat that had already fired in our community. Their goal at that point was to stop that threat,” Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said Friday.
“It was a massive show of force,” he said. “But considering the complexity of the situation and the risk that was put to our community, I think those officers under those circumstances acted as professionally as they could.”
Though 196 shots might seem like a lot, it is consistent with the number of officers who fired their guns, Gill said.
The district attorney found that the 10 Salt Lake police officers, three Utah Highway Patrol troopers and two Unified police officers were all legally justified in the use of deadly force in a report issued Friday.
One Salt Lake officer fired two shots through the windshield of his patrol car when Robinson pointed the rifle at him and another officer during the pursuit, according to the report. Robinson swerved and ducked in the cab of his truck.
The number of officers’ shots that hit Robinson isn’t known, Gill said. The medical examiner, he said, wasn’t able to determine entry and exit wounds on his body.
No bystanders were struck by the estimated 50 shots Robinson fired during the incident that started with the robbery of a Taylorsville convenience store on the morning of April 8. A Unified police officer suffered a minor injury from a bullet that ricocheted and grazed him.
Gill said the community is “very, very lucky” that Robinson’s shots didn’t hit any residents or officers in the crowded city. Police found a rifle, a shotgun and a handgun in Robinson’s Ford pickup truck.
Investigators weren’t able to determine a motive for Robinson’s actions, but Gill said the man’s family told them he had seemed unstable for a few months. He had spent several days at the neuropsychiatric unit at the University of Utah for an evaluation and had seemed calmer and was trying to get back on track after his release, he said.
Gill said Robinson’s family expressed sympathy for those who suffered stress over the dramatic events of that day and apologized in a note to investigators, part of which Gill read Friday.
“We pray that this tragic event will increase awareness of the damages mental illness and the effects it has on the community and the individuals and family,” the letter said. “With proper evaluation and treatment the event may have been prevented and we would still have our beloved friend and family member.”
Robinson started the day in Duchesne, where he told his brother he was feeling anxious and agitated and needed to go for a drive to calm down. He drove to Taylorsville, where he robbed a Holiday Oil gas station. He then drove to Millcreek, where he robbed a 7-Eleven store and fired one shot into the ceiling, according to the report.
From there, Robinson drove to downtown Salt Lake City, firing shots at the Sheraton Hotel and the Marriott City Center hotel. He shot toward the Salt Lake City-County Building as well as firing on 500 South and 300 East. He also fired rounds at police cars and fired into the air.
Gill said investigators weren’t able to track every shot. One round struck a Chevrolet Prism in the front bumper.
Many people called 911 to report an active shooter firing from a vehicle. An estimated 30 to 40 officers from different agencies starting chasing the truck. The pursuit headed south on State Street where Robinson crashed into the front of Princess Alterations and Leatherwork, 3339 S. State. Robinson got out of the truck and then tried to get back in.
“Officers later recounted that it appeared to them as though Mr. Robinson was reaching for a weapon inside the truck,” according to Gill’s report.
Cellphone video recorded by a witness shows several dozen officers converging on the truck after 15 to 20 seconds of continuous gunfire. Robinson died at the scene of the crash.
Based on the facts presented, the district attorney’s office concluded that Salt Lake police officers Brandon Lynch, Bryce Cantwell, Darrem Mackay, Colin Fugit, Ben Nielsen, Chris Howell, Richard Stone, Metui Tautua’a, Brandon Johnson and Ammon Mauga were legally justified in the use of deadly force.
Although they declined to be interviewed to explain their use of deadly force, the facts and circumstances along with reasonable inferences support a finding that UHP Sgt. Chris Shelby and troopers Jed Miller and Jon Thompson and Unified police detectives Chris Sullivan and Scott Lloyd were justified in the shooting, according to the report.