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SALT LAKE CITY — Officers from three Salt Lake County police agencies were legally justified in using deadly force in three separate police shootings, including one in which a Sandy SWAT officer was nearly killed in shootout while serving a search warrant.
Those conclusions were announced Friday by Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill. In each incident, the people who were shot or shot at by police survived and are currently facing criminal charges.
West Valley police respond to suicidal man
On Aug. 7, West Valley police responded to a report of a suicidal man, later determined to be Shilo Jason McCleery, 46, according to Gill. While waiting for officers to arrive at the residence, witnesses heard two gunshots coming from the basement.
The first two officers on scene were waiting for additional officers to arrive when they heard a gunshot.
That prompted the officers to run to the residence where the garage was open. West Valley police officer Nathan Dugan arrived on scene and "positioned himself with a rifle" behind a parked car across the street, according to the district attorney's report of the incident.
As Dugan moved to take cover behind another car, he spotted McCleery on the ground in the garage. Dugan yelled out commands for McCleery to put his hands up, but McCleery did not move, the report states.
Other officers approached McCleery and saw that as he was lying on the ground, he had a gun pointed at this head and in the direction of officers, according to Gill, and his finger in the trigger hole. For about a minute, officers gave repeated commands to McCleery to drop the gun.
"When they were telling him to remove the gun, he raised the gun in the direction of the officers," Gill said during a Friday press conference. "We had multiple officers who said (the gun) was pointed in their direction."
When McCleery pointed the gun at officers, Dugan fired a shot from across the street and exclaimed, "He moved the gun! He moved the gun!" the report states.
At that point, the other officers noticed the gun was now outside the garage and they took McCleery into custody. The shot fired by the officer did not hit McCleery and he was not injured. Investigators don't know why he was already on the ground in the garage when police arrived.
"I can't speculate on what he was going to do. All I can say ... is that he had the weapon, he raised the weapon and pointed it toward the direction of the officers when the shot was fired," Gill said.
In this case, Gill said the totality of the facts were investigated.
"We believe that the facts do not support a finding, beyond a reasonable doubt, that officer Dugan did not believe deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury, or if he did believe it, that his belief was unreasonable," the report states.
McCleery is charged in 3rd District Court with discharge of a firearm, a third-degree felony. When interviewed by police, McCleery said he fired one round toward the ceiling of the attached garage when police arrived, charging documents state.
Sandy SWAT officer injured in shootout
About 5 a.m. on Sept. 8, members of the Sandy SWAT team served a no-knock search warrant at the Arcadia Apartments, 222 W. Harrison Street (8990 South), where Sean DeJesus Darragh, 51, lived and was suspected of being involved with drug distribution.
The SWAT team broke open the front door and numerous officers reported shouting, 'Police serving a search warrant!' as they entered. Sandy Police Sgt. Greg Moffitt, who was holding a protective shield, was one of the first to enter the apartment.
"Immediately, Mr. Darragh drew a handgun from a holster on his hip and began running toward the entering officers," according to Gill's report.
Both Moffit and Sandy Police Sgt. Curtis Robertson, who was Moffitt's "shield cover" and armed with a .223 rifle, exchanged gunfire with Darragh.
Moffit fell to the ground and Robertson thought he was dead, according to Gill's report. Robertson then heard additional shots, which unbeknownst to him, were likely fired by Moffitt while he was on the ground.
"Sgt. Robertson remained focused on a corner where he'd seen movement. All at once, Sgt. Robertson saw Mr. Darragh and fired, and Mr, Darragh fell out of view," the report states. "Officers yanked on Sgt. Robertson's vest, but he remained inside until he knew Sgt. Moffitt had been pulled out of the apartment."
SWAT team members then pulled back, and a short time later a woman and an injured Darragh exited the apartment and were taken into custody.
Darragh was treated at a local hospital and moved into the Salt Lake County Jail a week later on Sept. 15. He was charged in 3rd District Court with discharge of a firearm causing serious injury and two counts of drug possession with intent to distribute, first-degree felonies; two counts of theft by receiving stolen property, a second-degree felony; and two counts of possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a third-degree felony. In December, Darragh was charged in federal court for the same incident with gun and drug-related charges.
Moffitt was taken to a hospital where he underwent surgery "to remove the bullet that had lodged within a fraction of an inch of his artery," according to the charging documents. He was shot in the right forearm and right cheek of his face. He is currently back on duty for Sandy police and acting as the department's spokesman.
West Jordan police called to domestic violence situation
On Oct. 31, West Jordan police were called to a possible domestic violence incident. A woman sent a text to a relative saying that she heard what she thought was a gun being cocked by Pedro Cortes-Villaloa, whom she lived with. The woman left the residence, and Cortes-Villaloa followed. Two other witnesses heard the gun being cocked again, according to Gill's report.
When officers arrived at the residence, Cortes-Villaloa attempted to get into his truck parked in the driveway. An officer grabbed Cortes-Villaloa to try and prevent him from getting in, the report states. It was at that point that Cortes-Villaloa grabbed a gun from his truck, Gill said.
"Mr. Cortes-Villaloa cycled the weapon's slide and began raising it, so (the officer) grabbed the barrel, pulled it downward and yelled, 'Gun! Gun! Gun!'" the district attorney's report states.
West Jordan Police Sgt. Nick Dailami, who was standing behind the other officer, then told that officer to move and fired a single shot, striking Cortes-Villaloa in the face, according to the report. The bullet entered his left cheek and exited his right cheek. Police later recovered a gun from the driveway and a second gun from Cortes-Villaloa's bedroom, according to charging documents.
Cortes-Villaloa was charged in 3rd District Court with possession of a gun by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.
Because all of the shooting incidents include active criminal cases, Gill said he would not yet release any body camera videos, something he typically does when reviewing officer-involved shootings. Those videos, as well as additional information such as statements from officers who were interviewed as part of the shooting investigation, were expected to be released pending the conclusion of the criminal cases.