WEST VALLEY CITY – It has been 10 months since Chad Breinholt was shot and killed by an officer while in custody of the West Valley City Police Department, and his family is frustrated over how long it’s taking to determine whether his shooting was justified.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has been investigating the shooting and the family said they cannot get a straight answer on when the investigation will be finished.
As police protests and calls to defund police departments are heard around the country, Breinholt’s family added its voice about police practices in West Valley when Breinholt was fatally shot.
His mother, Susan Neese, said it’s not how any mother wants to have her son remembered.
“It’s been painful and frustrating,” Neese said from her home in Illinois.
Breinholt was shot while in police custody at the West Valley City Police Department in August.
“It’s incredibly difficult to watch that footage,” Neese said.
Body camera video showed a handcuffed Breinholt inside the department’s processing room. Police said he was intoxicated, sitting on a chair holding his shoe when an officer approached him and asked for the shoe.
The officer wrestled with Breinholt and said, “He’s got my gun!”
There was more wrestling and a third officer rushed into the room.
It appears the officer said, “You’re about to die, my friend,” just before he shot Breinholt in the head at close range.
Neese questioned whether the officers used excessive force and should have restrained him in another way.
“Why were three large officers not trained enough to restrain a 5-foot-5, 135-pound person like Chad? And they had to use deadly force,” Neese said.
Neese said the district attorney’s office has been slow to respond to the family’s requests for updates.
She accused the office of delaying the investigation results since May. Neese said that’s when her attorney received word that the investigation results would be released. She flew to Utah only to have a last-minute change.
“Since then, we’ve been having delay after delay, after delay,” Neese said.
Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said, “Our office has been in touch with the legal counsel of the Breinholt family and we’ve told them that we’re going to get them done as quickly as we can. Sometimes other issues come up.”
Gill added each case is different and takes time.
Neese was concerned officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department are conducting the investigation and they may know the West Valley officers, which could taint their findings.
“I have some real concerns about one police department investigating another police department,” Neese said.
Gill said he also wants transparency and pointed out that he pushed to change laws so outside agencies have to investigate officer-involved shootings.
“There was a change in the law that was done that actually helped us to say that outside agencies have to investigate. So that was an improvement.” Gill said. “As a result of which, the shooting agency does not self-investigate.”
The West Valley City Police Department would not comment on the case because the investigation is still active.
The officers involved were back on regular duty.