A Grantsville police officer who shot and killed a man in a standoff in September has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
According to a report from Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan, Lt. Steve Barrett’s use of deadly force in the Sept. 29 incident was justified under Utah law. The report was made after reviewing an independent investigation into the incident by the Tooele City Police Department.
Grantsville City Police Chief Kevin Turner said the department was pleased in the ruling.
“[Hogan] was very thorough and very complimentary in his comments towards us, but I think there was no stone left unturned between Tooele [Police Department] and the county attorney,” Turner said.
According to the report, two officers, Cpl. Chism Yeaman and Officer Darrin Yates from the Grantsville City Police Department, responded to the Clark Street home of 37-year-old Travis Davis after family members had called dispatch requesting a welfare check. They had cited threats of suicide by Davis.
When the officers arrived, they knocked on the door, but Davis did not answer. Yelling to Davis from the outside was also unsuccessful. However, both Davis’ work and personal vehicles were in the driveway, indicating the man was home.
Yeaman called out to Davis, who answered, and asked if he was all right. Davis replied “Everything would be OK soon,” according to the report, and then would not answer the officers or a family member on repeated calls back to his mobile.
However, a “ping” from Tooele County Dispatch placed the phone’s location in the home. Yeaman and Yates requested more officers for backup, as well as Chief Turner and Lt. Steve Barrett.
At about 8:45 p.m., about 50 minutes after officers initially responded, Yates saw the back door of the house open and Davis come out carrying a .40 caliber handgun.When Yeaman identified himself to Davis, Davis turned to him and lifted the handgun in his direction, according to the report. Yates retreated behind a corner of the house while telling Davis to drop the weapon.
A Davis family member told officers he had at least five firearms in the house, and showed them a picture on a cell phone that Davis had sent of him holding a gun to his head. Yeaman and Yates moved to the backyard of the house next door to Davis’ for cover while still being able to clearly see the back door. Barrett also moved to an “observation” point in Davis’ backyard next to an elm tree, the report states, and was armed with a tactical 7 mm rifle. Turner, meanwhile, was with the other officers on the other side of the house.
At 9:17 p.m., Yeaman alerted the rest of the officers that Davis was coming out of the house and was carrying a handgun and a spare magazine. He ordered Davis to drop the weapon. Davis began to run through the background but tripped and fell. When he got up, Barrett yelled to him. Davis turned to Barrett with his weapon pointed towards Barrett according to the report.
Barrett fired one shot from his rifle, the report states, which struck Davis in his chest. A medical helicopter was initially called to aid Davis, but the injury proved fatal and the helicopter was canceled about a half hour later when Davis had been declared dead by medical personnel.
In addition to the testimonies of the three officers most closely involved—Barrett, Yeaman and Yates—the investigation and report considered the videos from the Wolfcom body cameras Grantsville officers wear, which corroborated the officers’ accounts, the report states.
Davis’ texts and Facebook posts were also considered, including one posted at 8:51 p.m. read, (sic) “Great who called the local cops. Guess I have to go out like Billy the Kid after all I didn’t want it to go this [way].” Although the officers were not monitoring his Facebook page at the time, and did not have knowledge of the post, it and the texts provide insight into Davis’ state of mind during the incident, according to the report.
“Davis’ actions presented an immediate threat to the safety of Barrett, Yates and Yeaman, and Lt. Barrett’s decision to fire at Davis was reasonable based upon Barrett’s knowledge and perception of this tense and rapidly evolving situation,” Hogan wrote in the report. “Consequently, we conclude that Lt. Barrett’s use of deadly force against Davis was legally justified under Utah Code.”
Turner said while the outcome of the investigation was a relief, the entire situation has been a sad one for the department, and more so for Davis’ family.
“It was very difficult to begin with, and very emotional, as well. Officers always wonder ‘what if’ and try to understand the gravity of the situation besides dealing with the investigation,” said Turner, adding that an internal investigation in the department likewise found the shooting to be justified.
“It was obviously a very critical incident and it unfolded rather quickly,” he said. “But we very much appreciate everyone’s efforts and as we deal with it, obviously our condolences go out to [Davis’] family and friends and acquaintances involved. It’s just very unfortunate all around.”