Man killed by police said he'd die before spending lots of time in jail

Family says victim was not armed when officer shot him

By Morgan Jacobsen, Deseret News

Published: Tue, Aug. 12, 2014, 9:45 a.m. MDT

 The body of a man who was shot in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store at 2102 S. State is covered on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in South Salt Lake.

The body of a man who was shot in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store at 2102 S. State is covered on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014, in South Salt Lake.

(Tom Smart, Deseret News)

SOUTH SALT LAKE — A man who was shot and killed by police Monday apparently wrote on his Facebook page last week that he would "die before I go do a lot of time" in jail.

Dillon Taylor, 20, died in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store at 2102 S. State.

About 7 p.m. Monday, officers responded to a report of a man "waving a gun around," investigators said Tuesday. When police arrived, they found three men leaving the convenience store. One of the men, later identified as Taylor, reportedly matched the description of the man reported in the 911 call.

Three officers gave Taylor verbal commands to reveal his hands, but Taylor failed to comply and was "visibly upset," according to South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Darin Sweeten.

Taylor was subsequently shot and died at the scene.

Police would not say Tuesday whether Taylor was armed or what behavior led the Salt Lake police officer to shoot him. Family members, however, insist that he had no gun.

Taylor's brother and a cousin were with Taylor and were compliant with officers, Sweeten said. No arrests were made.

A warrant was issued for Taylor's arrest last week, and the man had indicated on his Facebook page that he didn't want to go to jail.

The arrest warrant was issued Thursday for "failure to comply with probation," according to court documents. In a Facebook post from the same day, Taylor mentioned his difficulty with police.

"I feel my time is coming soon, my nightmears are telling me. im gonna have warrnts out for my arrest soon. ALL my family has turned and snitched on me. ill die before I go do a lot of time in a cell," he wrote. "I feel like god cant even save me on this one … this time coming its me and the demons im fighting."

Sweeten said it was unlikely that officers knew who Taylor was prior to the shooting or that he had a warrant.

Taylor's aunt, Gina Thayne, says she has taken care of Taylor and his siblings since their parents died five years ago. Although the family struggled, they had a close relationship, she said.

"It's really hard. It's been a roller coaster for the last five years with these kids," Thayne said. "It seems like every time they take two steps forward to try and straighten things up, they go three steps back. … It's caused a huge hardship on this family once again."

Varying accounts

Witnesses at the scene gave varying accounts of Monday's shooting. Taylor's brother was with him at the 7-Eleven Monday night.

"We walked out of the 7-Eleven and the next thing we know, we're surrounded by cops," Jerrail Taylor said. "My brother had his headphones in and is walking away. … They finally surrounded him, he went to pull up his pants, and they killed him."

He says no one in the group was armed.

"All this complaining about one of us having a gun, I'm kind of lost at, because none of us had a gun," he said.

Jerrail Taylor said the officers surrounded his brother and shot him twice in the chest.

One man said he heard two shots and said it appeared Dillon Taylor was fleeing when he was shot by officers. Police, however, would not confirm whether Taylor was trying to evade authorities.

"There's not any initial indication that he was necessarily fleeing," Sweeten said. "He was not complying with the officers' orders that they were giving him. It still needs to be investigated."

Rick Munoz said he saw police approach three men, then heard two gunshots.

"They were obviously upset their friend had been shot and kept screaming for him to wake up, and he never did. He died in the parking lot," Munoz said. "They were saying he did not have a gun, and they were very upset because of that."

Munoz said he heard officers saying Taylor was reaching for his waistband.

Family saddened

Dillon Taylor's family said he was engaged and his fiancée was about three months pregnant. He had lived with different family members in recent months but had moved to Salt Lake City about two months ago, according to his sister, Teesha Taylor.

The family described Dillon Taylor as cheerful and close with his three siblings.

"He'll go out of his way to make a bad time into a funny situation, cheer everybody up," Jerrail Taylor said. "He never meant no trouble."

"Dillon was a great kid," Thayne said. "He was really good with kids. He wasn't afraid to work."

Teesha Taylor said the family is deeply saddened by her brother's death.

"We've gone through a lot in our lives," she said. "We've struggled, we fought, but we all survived it. And now, one didn't survive.

"You got some crooked cops. But you also have the good cops," she added. "At this moment, I don't want to believe that there's good cops, but there is. It's so hard for me to believe it because one just killed my brother. I know in the bottom of my heart there's good officers. It's just devastating."

Robert Taylor, Dillon Taylor's uncle who lives in Pocatello, Idaho, issued a statement Tuesday.

"Last night's shooting was a tragic event for all the parties involved. My nephew was a troubled young man with a history of depression, alcohol abuse and run-ins with law enforcement," he said. "Law enforcement has a difficult job, and it appears Dillon's actions may have contributed to his death.

"While I'm disturbed by the use of deadly force while other non-lethal tools are available to law enforcement, it's difficult for anyone to judge the actions taken by police in a split-second, life-or-death situation. I hope everyone will withhold judgment about Dillon and the police officers' actions until a full investigation is completed."

Nearly 100 people braved the rain Tuesday evening to return to the site where Dillon Taylor died, somberly placing candles and flowers around a makeshift memorial. Many donned white memorial T-shirts, proclaiming "RIP Dillon Taylor" around the man's picture.

Criminal history

Taylor pleaded guilty in 2012 to robbery and obstructing justice, second-degree felonies. A theft charge was dismissed the same year.

In one case, Taylor and another person entered a restaurant and took a tip jar before driving off with two other people. About an hour later, the group reportedly stole a 30 pack of beer at a convenience store. A witness approached the group before they drove off, and Taylor looked at the witness and said, "Don't be a hero (expletive), or I'll (expletive) shoot you," according to charging documents.

The following month, Taylor reportedly threatened a member of the group he was with during the incidents, telling him: "If I see you, your wife, or your daughter, I'll shoot on sight," which constituted obstructing justice, court documents state.

From 2012 to 2013, Taylor served two terms in the Salt Lake County Jail amounting to about 14 months, according to the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Three Salt Lake police officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of shooting investigations. The South Salt Lake Police Department, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and the Salt Lake Police Department are investigating.

Contributing: Sandra Yi, Peter Samore

Email: mjacobsen@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. USAlover
Salt Lake City, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

Before this turns into a Trayvon Martin/Mike Brown discussion, let's be clear. If you waive a gun at police in a public area and actually fire a the gun, you are going to be shot by the police. Is that idea so difficult to understand. In fact, let's teach that to our kids. It's simple: Shoot a gun at police and you will be shot by police. Now, repeat it three times.

Thank you law enforcement for protecting and serving our community.

2. Fitz
Murray, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

First, to USAlover, there is no indication in this article that this man had a gun. In fact the only information provided is that of his friends who said he did not have a gun.

While belligerence is not the best way to talk to a cop, it still falls within 'we the people's' 1st Amendment rights. While we should be polite, there is no law that I am aware of that says we can't be belligerent to a cop. That is clearly not grounds to shoot, or even arrest, someone.

There is a lot more to this story, which will, hopefully, eventually come out. Whether or not his the whole truth is a different issue, we must remember that the proverbial 'blue wall" clouds truth.

3. Shimlau
Aug. 12, 2014

Fitz; while I believe you are correct about the 'blue wall' clouding the truth, I feel that sometimes the media will sensationalize the story for the sake of sales. also, it's hard to be impartial in the amount of space they are allowed. so media may corrupt the story either intentionally or unintentionally and do as much damage as the 'blue wall'.

4. UtahBruin
Saratoga Springs, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

@ Fitz

You're right, people do have their 1st Amendment rights. However, lets understand what that is. It is not just freedom to say whatever you want. The 1st Amendment rights are actually not to have your freedom of speech abridged/shortened. When the police say you will be given a chance to share your side, you will be. But don't be belligerent. To say the victim in this case was belligerent to a cop. We are required to follow and respect the law. The Police is the law. When an officer arrives at a scene or incident, they becomes the law. So yes, there is a law that says we cannot be belligerent to a cop. It just depends on how far the police officer is going to allow you to push it. This law is called obstruction of justice. Being belligerent falls under this law.

5. UtahBruin
Saratoga Springs, UT,
Aug. 12, 2014

With regards to the situation. Do we have police officers who abuse their power. Yes we do! However, if a police officer ask you to stop and talk with him, there is no reason to get all huffy puffy/belligerent. Just go talk to the cop. If you have nothing to hide, why become a chump. If you have nothing to hide, it is going to take a few minutes and then you are on your way. We ask these men in uniform to go out and keep our streets safe. So the best way to make them feel safe themselves, where they may no have to pull a gun, is to respect them and their authority. If all is good in the hood, everyone goes home unharmed. We don't know the full story of this, was the police officer unjustified in his actions. Maybe, Maybe Not? But if the guy who is dead now would have not been so belligerent, we would probably be commenting on an arrest or just an incident where everyone went home safely today. My opinion, not the cops fault, this is the person who wanted to be above the laws fault.