DA: Unified officer was not justified in shooting death of Salt Lake man

Mar 5, 2021, 1:21 PM
taylorsville officer involved shooting ruled not justified...
Photo: Sean Moody, KSL TV

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah — A Unified officer who shot and killed an unarmed Salt Lake man last year was not justified in the use of deadly force during that shooting, the Salt Lake County District Attorney announced Friday. 

However, DA Sim Gill said his office would not pursue criminal charges against the officer, Omar Flores. 

“We don’t believe a jury would convict Officer Flores of murder or another criminal charge,” Gill said Friday. 

Gill’s office released its decision Friday, calling the case “challenging.” 

Shooting found not justified

The shooting occurred March 21, 2020, in response to calls to 911 about gunshots in the area of 6200 S. Bangerter Highway. Witnesses reported hearing the gunfire, following by a car speeding off. Police eventually caught up with Bryan Ulysses Pena-Valencia, 28, of Salt Lake City, after the car crashed. 

According to the report, the car crashed near 6300 South and 3200 West, and the driver got out and ran. Flores followed, climbing a fence to pursue Pena-Valencia. 

Investigators believe the act of scaling the fence knocked Flores’ body camera off of his uniform, which means there is no body camera video of the shooting itself. 

Refusing to comply

The report states Flores used a Taser twice to confront Pena-Valencia and stop him from fleeing, after which Pena-Valencia said, “OK, OK, I give up,” but then proceeded to try to climb a second fence. 

Even after a second officer arrived, Flores said Pena-Valencia continued to defy their orders to lay down or show his hands, and moved his hands in a downward direction. 

“I thought or believed he was reaching for a firearm and I would be shot. I feared my partner would be shot,” Flores told investigators in a written statement.

No criminal intent

In the report, Gill said Flores’ belief that his life was in danger was not enough to justify the shooting. 

“[He] was nevertheless factually, objectively wrong about the necessity for him to use deadly force. Mr. Valencia did not and could not have threatened officer Flores or (the other officer) with death or serious bodily injury because Mr. Valencia did not have the means to do so. Mr. Valencia did not have a gun and could not have shot either officer.”

However, Gill also noted no evidence suggests Flores acted with any kind of criminal intent, which is why he did not file charges. 

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DA: Unified officer was not justified in shooting death of Salt Lake man