Protesters want answers, transparency in officer-involved shootings

By Emiley Morgan, Deseret News

Published: Mon, Aug. 18, 2014, 6:15 p.m. MDT

 People march near the Public Safety Building during a rally for Dillon Taylor in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Taylor was shot and killed by police on Aug. 11, 2014.

People march near the Public Safety Building during a rally for Dillon Taylor in Salt Lake City, Monday, Aug. 18, 2014. Taylor was shot and killed by police on Aug. 11, 2014.

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Aaron Swanenberg came from the funeral of his friend, Dillon Taylor, to join others on the street across from the Public Safety Building Monday to protest his death and demand answers from police.

"Dillon's being laid to rest as we speak," he said. "We deserve answers as a people. It's been a week, but they've still given us no answers."

Taylor, 20, was shot and killed by a police officer on Aug. 11 in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven store at 2102 S. State. His family has said he was not armed.

Police have not released the identity of the Salt Lake police officer involved in the shooting, which is being investigated by South Salt Lake police. They have not provided details about the shooting, namely whether Taylor was armed.

The protest and demand for transparency comes with the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed man who was shot and killed by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri, as a backdrop to the conversation on the militarization of police forces continues across the country.

South Salt Lake police spokesman Gary Keller said Monday he had no new information to release. He said the identity of the officer or officers involved have not been released for the protection of the officers and their families. But he would not elaborate on any threat.

Police previously said officers responded to a report of a man "waving a gun around." 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 a 911 call.

South Salt Lake Police Sgt. Darin Sweeten said three officers gave Taylor verbal commands to reveal his hands, but Taylor failed to comply and was "visibly upset." Taylor was subsequently shot and died at the scene.

Scott Simons organized Monday's protest, bringing signs that he's had since his daughter was killed in an officer-involved shooting Jan. 9, 2013. The shooting of Kelly Simons was determined to be justified by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, which determined that she was fleeing from officers to avoid arrest and had been accused of using force against an officer just days before.

But Simons said he still doesn't understand why his daughter was killed in the incident. He said every time he hears of someone unarmed being shot by police, it reopens a wound and motivates him to continue his efforts to increase awareness.

"It's just crazy — unarmed people getting shot — it's just wrong, no matter how you slice it," he said. "The police have to be aware that people are starting to be more resistant to this. The whole country is becoming aware of this problem."

Marlee Kanosh drove from Cedar City to attend Monday's protest. She said she had always assumed that she could trust police, until her brother, Corey, was killed in an officer-involved shooting in October 2012.

"I had no idea this type of people existed until I became one of them," she said of the group of families who gather for their loved ones killed in officer-involved shootings.

Kanosh has watched the coverage of Michael Brown and the surrounding outrage with a level of frustration that some cases garner more of a public outcry than others, and because many Utahns ignore the issue in their own state.

"Utah needs to be aware that it goes on here, too," she said.

Kim Kasey was holding a sign she made that read: "Nothing to see here, Folks. Move along," which is how she interprets the police's response to Taylor's death. She said she lives near 2400 South and State Street, which is just a few blocks from where the shooting took place.

"It doesn't make me afraid in my home, but it does make me more wary of interactions with police," Kasey said. "We want a few answers. You're our cops. We want a little transparency."

She said she doesn't want to be afraid of police and hopes police officers will get more training. Kennedy Clark came to the protest with her 7-year-old daughter and questioned why officers don't use nonlethal means before drawing their guns. She, too, said she felt as though police weren't "giving us much information."

"Mainly the reason I'm here is not just for him (Taylor)," Clark said. "I don't want this to happen to someone I love."

Keller said the release of information "takes some time" as detectives look for and interview witnesses and review their statements and other evidence. He said more information may wait until the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office completes its investigation and makes its determination as to whether the shooting was legally justified.

"It remains to be seen," he said.

A call left at the office of South Salt Lake Police Chief Jack Garruth was not returned Monday. Salt Lake City Police announced that Chief Chris Burbank will make himself available for a general question and answer period Tuesday, but declined to address the issue Monday.

Burbank was scheduled to appear on "The Doug Wright Show" on KSL NewsRadio Tuesday at 10 a.m. Among the issues to be discussed is the militarization of police departments.

Email: emorgan@deseretnews.com

Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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1. 1Observer
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
Aug. 18, 2014

It is my experience that most police officers are very reluctant to use deadly force. They are trained to protect life, not take it. However, unfortunate as it is, they sometimes have to use lethal force. If people were honest with themselves I think you would find that in nearly 98% of the officer involved shootings the victim could have avoided the shooting by cooperating, following orders, keeping their hands clear and in the open and being respectful to police. They also could have avoided it by not being involved in criminal activity to begin with. I can't pass judgement on the actions of the police officers in the cases cited since I wasn't there. But if we are to condemn the police we ought to also condemn the person being shot for breaking the law and then not following the lawful orders of the police officers involved. Simply breaking the law does not, in and of itself, justify deadly force, but a person involved in criminal activity puts themselves at risk and to aggravate that risk by being combative with the police officer must bring some responsibility to the victim of the shooting. Crime and violence beget violence.

2. John Pack Lambert of Michigan
Ypsilanti, MI,
Aug. 18, 2014

It seems like the real goal of some of these people is to make it easier for people to avoid arrest and continue their crimes.

3. RichardB
Murray, UT,
Aug. 18, 2014

They need to wait until the investigation is over before jumping to conclusions. Giving out information that could harm an investigation may win fans, but it ends up turning people loose that belong in jail.

4. roberto
Moses Lake, WA,
Aug. 18, 2014

This transparency thing should be a two way street. The protesters are crying foul when it appears that the young man was up to mischief and people who have now idea who he really was are trying to paint him as a "gentle giant". The video doesn't lie. It didn't look like the giant was so gentle when he was steeling cigars from the store. Get the race beaters Jessey Jackson and Al Sharpton, and the looting thugs out of the way and let the investigators do their job.

5. roberto
Moses Lake, WA,
Aug. 18, 2014

Oops My bad!!!! I didn't read the Story. I deserve what ever rashing coming my way