DA Sim Gill rules SLC police use of lethal force justified in Feb. shooting

Sep 4, 2020, 3:47 PM
Gill police...
Screen shot of Sim Gill during a Sep. 4 press conference

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah– Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill ruled the police shooting of Michael Tyson Nance as justified during a press conference Friday. Officers shot Nance while responding to a 911 call. 

Nance was arrested Feb. 10, 2020, after he allegedly shot and killed Natalie Thurber inside a Salt Lake apartment.

DA Sim Gill charged Nance with one count of criminal homicide, aggravated murder, which is a first-degree felony; one count of attempted criminal homicide, aggravated murder, which is a first-degree felony; one count of aggravated kidnapping, a first-degree felony; and one count of aggravated assault which is a third-degree felony. 

DA Office details officer response

On Feb. 10, 2020, the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD) received a 911 call but reported dispatch could not hear anyone on the line. Officers report hearing a man in the background saying, “I don’t want to kill you,” according to charging documents. 

Dispatchers report hearing a man and woman talking about a knife, with the man refusing to let the woman leave. The police department used tracking technology to pinpoint the general location of the call and sent officers to 115 South and 300 East. 

Officers arrived on the scene roughly two minutes after dispatchers received the call. 

SLCPD Officer Jeppsen walked around the apartment building when he reported hearing a “quiet scream” and “gurgling” coming from the woman inside the apartment, according to charging documents. Jeppsen radioed to other officers on-scene as he heard the inside situation escalate. 

Jeppsen then drew his weapon and kicked out a glass window of the apartment, where he saw a man “choking out” a woman on the floor, the officer reported. Officer Jeppsen ordered the man to drop her, which he said he did immediately. 

The man then retreated behind the wall into another room. 

SLCPD officers Cassity and Miller arrived on the scene as two gunshots were heard inside the house. The three officers looked inside to find the woman on the ground not moving, according to charging documents. 

Officer Jeppsen looked back to Officer Miller, who was grabbing his chest which was covered in blood. By the time Jeppsen looked back to the apartment, he saw the mussel of a  handgun appear around the corner of the wall. 

Both officers Jeppsen and Cassity aimed their “police weapons” toward the wall and fired, according to charging documents. Nance was hit by at least one of these bullets, although it’s unclear which officer was responsible for his injuries. 

Nance was apprehended by officers and survived his injuries — with DA Sim Gill charging him on multiple accounts. Officer Miller also survived his gunshot injuries, according to documents. 

During an interview after the incident, Miller reported he did not fire his weapon. However, bodycam footage of the incident shows Miller firing his gun at least once. 

“It’s important to know that Officer Miller fired his weapon but under different circumstances than Officer Jeppsen and Cassity,” Gill said. “Miller’s testimony of the circumstances in which the use of deadly force would be justified. He said he heard gunshots inside the apartment and realized he was shot.” 

Gill rules police use of ‘deadly force’ as justified 

During the news conference discussing the case details, DA Sim Gill ruled the officers’ lethal use of “deadly force” justified. Gill’s ruling comes after an independent investigation of the case. 

“We conclude that Officer Jeppsen and Officer Cassity reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent their death or serious bodily injury of others,” the DA office wrote in its charging documents. “Consequently, we find their use of deadly force to be justified.”

The District Attorney’s Office reported it would decline to press criminal charges against the officers because their actions fall in line with the police department’s legal standards. Those standards rule an officer may apply “deadly force” if the suspect is believed to “pose a threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Although Officer Miller initially reported he did not fire his weapon — with body cam footage evidence showing he did — Gill ruled it as justified because he was shot. 

“We don’t know if being shot caused a sympathetic reaction or if the trauma from being shot caused him not to remember firing his weapon,” Gill said. “We don’t believe that [his] weapon discharge, especially when viewed in the contexts of the facts of the incident, implicate criminal charges against Officer Miller.” 

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DA Sim Gill rules SLC police use of lethal force justified in Feb. shooting