Man who shot, killed Provo police officer sentenced to life in prison without parole


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PROVO — "Two beautiful, innocent little boys" were the ones hurt the most by the death of Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, his widow and the mother of his children said Tuesday.

Kaylyn Shinners said her husband valued his family and "absolutely loved being a father." Her heart breaks when she has to tell her younger son why he is not in any pictures with his dad.

"That night, one man made a choice that devastated our lives," she said.

Matt Frank Hoover, 45, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole for aggravated murder, a first-degree felony, for shooting and killing Joseph Shinners in 2019.

Hoover was also ordered to serve consecutive sentences of zero to five years in prison for failing to respond to an officer, zero to five years for possession of a controlled substance, and zero to five years for possession of a firearm as a restricted person — each a third-degree felony.

Hoover was found guilty on March 15 after a three-week jury trial.

'Just like that, my world changed'

Joseph Shinners was shot on Jan. 5, 2019, while attempting to arrest Hoover for outstanding warrants in front of the Bed Bath & Beyond in Orem. Hoover was also shot during the incident.

Fourth District Judge Kraig Powell's courtroom was full for the sentencing hearing, and many of Joseph Shinners' family members shared comments.

Powell said Hoover's actions caused a financial burden and psychological injury to multiple victims. He also said it was "extreme cruelty" for Hoover to put officers in that position. He said police officers have a duty to carry out an operation, and to put officers in a premeditated situation like that meant there was a great risk.

Kaylyn Shinners said the last day of her husband's life was pretty normal: He fell asleep cuddling with their son, and she woke him up to get ready to begin his shift as a police officer. A few hours later, she got a knock on the door and opened it to two police officers. One officer stayed to watch their son while the other rushed her to the hospital, where her husband had been taken into surgery.

"I waited, the doctor came out sometime later and told us that Joe was gone. Just like that, my world changed," she said.

A few days after Shinners' funeral, his widow learned she was pregnant. She said what should have been a happy time was not. Now, she said, all her moments of happiness are also filled with grief.

"There's nothing quite like becoming a widow at 28, knowing I have so much longer to live without my best friend, dreading my future instead of looking forward to it, feeling such a heavy burden of figuring out everything by myself," she said.

Joseph Shinners, left, pictured with his wife and son. Shinners was shot and killed during an altercation with a fugitive on Jan. 5, 2019. Matt Frank Hoover, the man who shot him, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Tuesday.
Joseph Shinners, left, pictured with his wife and son. Shinners was shot and killed during an altercation with a fugitive on Jan. 5, 2019. Matt Frank Hoover, the man who shot him, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on Tuesday. (Photo: Michael Shinners)

Kaylyn Shinners said her heart breaks for all of the children she doesn't get to raise because her husband is gone, and all of the things her husband will not be able to teach his sons. She said, however, that none of his actions that night surprised her.

"He was brave and selfless," she said.

She said she met her husband when she was 13. He loved talking to others and would make them feel valued, she said.

"I don't think there is any way to measure the good he did in this life and all the good he would have continued to do if he were still alive," she said.

Victims request no parole

Provo Police Chief Troy Beebe said Shinners embodied love and compassion and went above and beyond to help strangers and those in need. Beebe said he was an "amazing peace officer."

"The impact of losing Joe extends far beyond our police department; it deeply impacted the entire city of Provo," the chief said.

Beebe said thousands of citizens, including children, lined the streets to pay respect to Shinners.

"I urge you to hold Hoover accountable for his heinous actions by sentencing him to life without the possibility of parole," he said.

Joseph Shinners' brother, Mike Shinners, and father, John Shinners, also asked Powell not to allow Hoover the possibility of parole.

John Shinners said he was so proud when his son graduated from the police academy and didn't know that a few years later his heart, and hearts of his whole family, would be broken.

"I wake up in the morning with a void in my life that can never be filled," he said.

He wondered aloud what his son would have achieved if he were still here. He said his son's time with his new family was cut short so soon, but he knows his son is watching over them.

Deputy Utah County attorney Chad Grunander also asked for a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. He said Hoover has a significant criminal history and is a career criminal. He also said Hoover has minimized his role and accountability for Joseph Shinners' death.

Provo police officer Joseph Shinners was shot and killed in Orem on Jan. 5, 2019, while responding to a report of a wanted fugitive. Matt Frank Hoover was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Provo police officer Joseph Shinners was shot and killed in Orem on Jan. 5, 2019, while responding to a report of a wanted fugitive. Matt Frank Hoover was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Photo: Provo Police Department)

Grunander said this case is about justice and accountability, not revenge.

"Police officers do a job that very few of us are willing or want to do. They put their lives on the line every day. They put on the uniform and the badge; they protect us (by) standing between the criminal element and a peaceful and orderly society," he said. "For this reason, murdering a police officer amounts to aggravated murder and carries the potential for a life sentence without parole."

'He's a human being'

Hoover expressed condolences to the Shinners family and said he thinks about them every day.

"I never intended to harm anyone. I think my history shows that," Hoover said.

He said he is a drug addict and should have been getting help, but he does not think "the takedown" was necessary.

"I know they hate me, but I wish they could hate me for the right reasons," he said, claiming there is information the family doesn't know.

He said it was "cowardly" of the other officer not to acknowledge that the gun went off while they were wrestling over it, and that he didn't even see Shinners when he fired the gun.

Hoover's attorney, Mary Corporon, said her client wishes he had made different decisions or had been successful in taking his own life. She said he had written multiple letters to the Shinners family seeking to express agony for their pain, but the letters were not allowed to be sent.

Corporon read a letter Hoover wrote over a year ago, in which he asked the family to keep an open mind and said he would accept responsibility for the truth but "not for the fabrications."

"I am not the violent monster that they make me out to be — completely opposite, actually. I am a quiet and gentle and loving family man. I have done a lot of dumb things in my life, but I never inflicted harm on anyone," Hoover said in the letter.

Corporon said Hoover is also a father and grandfather and had family in the courtroom supporting him.

"He is not evil incarnate, he's a human being," she said. "He's never contended he wasn't guilty, the question is the degree of his guilt and what the appropriate punishment is."

She said her client realizes, either way, he would likely stay in prison the rest of his life but asked for the possibility to be open for someone down the road to let him out of prison.

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Emily Ashcraft joined KSL.com as a reporter in 2021. She covers courts and legal affairs, as well as health, faith and religion news.

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