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Salt Lake officer-involved shooting deemed as justified

Sim Gill presenting body cam footage of the November shooting. Photo: Paul Nelson

SALT LAKE CITY — No charges are going to be filed against the handful of Salt Lake City Police officers who fired on a man in November, killing him.  District Attorney Sim Gill determined that the shooting was justified, a finding that is raising the ire of people who knew the man whom police shot.

The shooting happened on Sir Philip Drive.  Police say Cody Paris Belgard had fled a previous crime scene and hit an officer while driving away.  After he reportedly ditched the car, Belgard went into someone’s back yard.  Police arrived and surrounded him and District Attorney Sim Gill says Belgard was given many orders to show his hands and get on the ground.  However, Belgard didn’t do that.

“He was reaching into his waistband and began moving his hands back and forth in his jacket,” Gill says.

Belgard then reportedly stretched out his arm toward some of the officers, holding an object in his hand.

Gill says, “The man had a black object in his hand which he pointed in the direction at some of the officers.  Officer Silva yelled, ‘Gun!’”

It turns out that Belgard was holding a cell phone.  However, Gill says there were witnesses who saw the exchange, and they also believed Belgard was holding a gun.

“They were from the same direction and vantage from [officers] Silva, Chow and Sanders and whose statement is that the man turned around and pointed a gun at the officers and the officers shot him,” Gill adds.

Given all the evidence on hand, Gill says officers had reason to believe the officers had a reasonable fear for their safety.  However, Belgard’s brother, Marvin Oliveros doesn’t accept Gill’s findings.  He says the shooting happened because one officer wrongly believed Belgard had a gun.

“That was all it took to justify this, not the fact that he didn’t have a gun and not the fact that his back was turned,” Oliveros says.

Plus, he believes the bullet’s trajectory proves his brother was beginning to bend down, as he was instructed.  He claims one bullet entered his brother’s lower back and was going upward.

“They told him to get on the ground.  That autopsy report shows he was complying,” he says.

(Photo Credit: Paul Nelson)

Oliveros and other supporters held a protest outside Gill’s office, wrapping themselves in tarps to represent body bags.