The Tooele County Sheriff’s Office is investigating why a Tooele City police officer fired his gun at a man who eventually committed suicide on Friday afternoon.
Officers from the Tooele City Police Department responded to a report of an aggravated assault at an apartment complex near 400 East and 250 North at 5:16 p.m. When they arrived, the victim, a 56- year-old woman, told officers her son, 28- year-old Christopher Jackson, had assaulted her, threatened her with a handgun, and was threatening to kill himself, according to Tooele City Police Chief Ron Kirby.
“When she reported this, she had left the apartment, and he was still in the apartment, so we went to the apartment and started looking for him, and eventually went inside the apartment and that’s where we found him, still armed, still threatening suicide,” Kirby said.
There were four officers, all from TCPD, directly involved in the ensuing standoff with Jackson, Kirby said. The standoff lasted about 45 minutes, during which time the officers were in close proximity and communication with Jackson.
Kirby said Jackson made threats towards the officers. One officer, whom Kirby refused to name, citing the open investigation, fired a shot at Jackson, which did not strike the man, Kirby said. Jackson then killed himself with a gunshot to the head.
“The standoff continued and he eventually took his own life,” Kirby said. “It was a sad thing.” Because an officer discharged his weapon, an investigation is being conducted by the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office into the incident to determine whether the shot fired was done in compliance with Utah law. The city police department is also investigating the incident internally, Kirby said.
Kirby said he could not comment further on the case or release any more information, such as Jackson’s exact behavior during the standoff, until the conclusion of that investigation. “We need to let them do their investigation, so I don’t want to comment outside of their investigation,” he said. “The best I can say is he was threatening suicide.”
Though there was no designated hostage negotiator on scene, Kirby said, officers had training for hostage situations in general through SWAT exercises and training. That training was used during this incident, he said.
“Really, this was a hostage situation — when you have a situation like this the person is holding themselves hostage,” he said. “The officers do have tactical training.”
Lt. Travis Scharmann of the Tooele County Sheriff’s Office, who is conducting the investigation, said the need for an outside agency to conduct investigations in police shootings is both to avoid the possibility and appearance of anything being covered up by the agency that was involved in the incident.
“If an agency’s involved in a shooting of their own or they’re present, an outside agency needs to come in and do the investigation so it doesn’t look like that agency is covering anything up, which they probably wouldn’t,” he said. “It’s just safer to have an outside, independent agency that wasn’t present do the investigation.” Scharmann said investigations of this type are not common in the county.
“Maybe once a year, once every other year,” he said. “I’ve only been involved in three in my entire career.” The investigation will likely take a couple of weeks at least, he said.
According to court records, Jackson’s mother filed a petition for a protective order on her son in August 2006. A petition to dismiss that protective order was filed in October 2009.