Salt Lake City, UT — Earlier this year, the Free Thought Project reported on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s training program which taught officers de-escalation tactics and how that has prevented their officers from killing since 2015.
However, at least one officer has forgotten that training and a recent killing, captured on body camera, has ruined their non-lethal streak. To make matters worse, this man was attempting to flee when he was killed and the officer who did it was justified.
On Wednesday, the Salt Lake City District Attorney’s Office announced that the officer who killed 50-year-old Patrick Harmon, officer Clinton Fox, was legally justified in his actions.
A letter disseminated Wednesday afternoon by District Attorney Sim Gill’s office said that “After conducting an Officer Involved Critical Incident (OICI) review, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office has determined that the August 13, 2017 Use of Deadly Force by a Salt Lake City Police Department officer in [sic] was legally justified.”
As Desert News reports, the stop was initiated over improper bicycle lighting:
Harmon was initially stopped by police for riding his bicycle across six lanes of traffic on State Street near 1000 South and for not having a required tail light, the report states. After giving officers several different names, police learned that Harmon had several warrants out for his arrest.
Fox said Harmon seemed emotional, distraught and nervous, talked about “getting right with God,” and said he was trying to take care of his warrant, the report states.
During the video, we can see Harmon begin to cry as he realizes that he is going to go to jail. Then, all of the sudden, he realized he was not going to go.
“Harmon pleaded with the officers not to go to jail. The officers took Mr. Harmon’s hands and placed them behind his back. As Mr. Harmon’s hands went behind his back, Mr. Harmon bolted from the officers and ran,” the report states.
As Harmon tried to flee, he appears to briefly turn back toward the officers for a split second—a decision which would end his life.
“Fox said Mr. Harmon came at the officers with something in his hand. Officer Fox said he was terrified by how close Mr. Harmon was to the officers when Mr. Harmon stopped and turned toward them,” the report states. “Officer Fox said he feared if he didn’t immediately use deadly force, Mr. Harmon was going to stab him and/or the other officers.”
Fox fired his weapon three times, according to the report.
“Officer Fox said that in 10 years of law enforcement and two military deployments, it was the scariest situation he had ever been in,” investigators wrote.
While the video does show Harmon turn back around, neither of the other officers felt they needed to resort to deadly force. In fact, had Fox not killed Harmon, the other officer’s taser—which was deployed—could’ve brought him down without incident.
Police Chief Mike Brown issued a statement saying he and the department “trust the process and support the decision” from Gill‘s office. “I believe our officers have the training, judgment and ability to make split-second decisions in dynamic situations,” Brown said.
According to City Weekly, Harmon’s sister, Antionette—who drove 1,300 miles along with eight other family members to attend a rally for her brother—recalled Patrick Harmon, four years her junior as “goofy” and remembered him as “a protector”—someone who defended his only sister whenever needed.