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3 officers justified in killing Kearns man who fired at them, review says

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses a police shooting on Aug. 8, 2020. Gill on Friday declared three officers were legally justified when they shot and killed a Kearns man on Feb. 6.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill discusses a police shooting on Aug. 8, 2020. Gill on Friday declared three officers were legally justified when they shot and killed a Kearns man on Feb. 6. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Three officers were legally justified when they shot and killed a Kearns man who fired in their direction after shooting at his wife and threatening to kill his grandson.

That was the conclusion announced Friday by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill that was reached roughly eight months after the death of Dennis Glen Denham, 60, on Feb. 6. Two West Valley police officers and a Unified police officer adhered to a plan they'd made to return fire if Denham shot in their direction, Gill said, after they arrived to find him shooting toward his wife and in a different direction about 45 minutes earlier.

"They had a plan, they knew that this person fired in their direction and it is not unreasonable for them to fire in response to protect themselves and protect other individuals in that area," Gill said.

West Valley officers Michael Fugate and Brady Sargent fired their rifles a combined nine to 10 times and officer Huntington fire his rifle twice, Gill said. None of the officers were injured.

Gill said the man appeared at the front door several times, yelling at officers, before shooting. Officers used a radio to order him to set down the weapon and come out of the house. The review by Gill's office found Denham was intoxicated and had been "drinking alcohol for three days."

Denham's wife had called 911 after her husband retrieved multiple guns and either raised a gun toward their grandson or pointed it at him after an argument about a laptop, police said. She managed to rush four children, ages 10 to 15, out of the house and to neighbor's home near 5700 West and China Clay Drive.

The three officers refused to speak with investigators, Gill said, so they relied on statements from other officers who had arrived to help and interviews with neighbors. The West Valley officers' body camera footage captured the events but failed to show what was happening in full because the officers were crouched behind patrol cars, Gill said. Huntington's body camera was somehow damaged about a week before the shooting and had not yet been replaced, according to the 33-page review.

The Utah Office of the Medical Examiner concluded Denham was shot once in the upper left chest and once in the right side of his abdomen. Toxicology results revealed a blood alcohol concentration of 0.215%.

After the shooting, investigators found a loaded pistol and a handgun with a cartridge in the chamber at the threshold, Gill said.

Annie Knox

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