CRIME

Deadly force deemed as justified in officer-involved shooting at Pioneer Park

Sep 17, 2021, 6:52 PM | Updated: 6:57 pm
(Screen grab of the body cam footage released by Salt Lake City Police.  Prosecutors say it shows R...
(Screen grab of the body cam footage released by Salt Lake City Police. Prosecutors say it shows Rezek Yahya racing toward Officer Darren Austill with a knife in his hand.)
(Screen grab of the body cam footage released by Salt Lake City Police. Prosecutors say it shows Rezek Yahya racing toward Officer Darren Austill with a knife in his hand.)

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County’s top prosecutor says Salt Lake City police were justified in using deadly force in an officer-involved shooting in Pioneer Park. 

However, newly released evidence shows the suspect wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the park that day. 

Body camera footage

During a press conference Friday, Salt Lake County DA Sim Gill walked reporters through the body camera footage of the officer-involved shooting from June 2021, plus, he gave more details about the stabbing that led police arriving.  He says the suspect, Rezek Yahya, became enraged at a woman after she asked for a lighter.  Yahya reportedly swore at the woman and said, “this is not a 7-11.”

Gill said, “At that point, she says he got up, pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the arm.”

(A picture of the knife Yahya reportedly used to attack a woman in Pioneer Park, which police say he still had in his hand when he charged an officer. Courtesy Salt Lake County DA’s Office.)

Uncooperative toward police

He says the woman was stabbed multiple times but was able to run to nearby constructions workers who saved her life.  When police arrived, the workers helped them find Yahya who was sitting in a tree.  Gill says police told Yahya to drop his weapon, but he refused.  After that, Yahya reportedly “locked on” to one of the officers and went straight for him. 

“[Yahya] began to run directly at him, holding the knife in his hand as he ran,” Gill said.

Gill says Yahya was able to move more than 100 feet toward the officer in roughly six seconds, never letting go of the weapon.

“As Mr. Yahya neared Officer [Darren] Austill, still sprinting with the knife in his hand, both officers fired their weapons,” Gill said.

Forensics evidence shows Yahya was hit twice by gunfire. And either bullet could have been lethal.  Gill says one bullet severed his spine while the other went into his lungs.  Given that it appeared Yahya intended to attack Officer Austill, Gill says deadly force was reasonable and a jury would likely find the officers not guilty.

Getting out of the country

However, there are still many questions about why Yahya was even at the park that day.  Gill says investigators found an airline ticket to Chad that departed two days prior to the shooting.  They believe Yahya was supposed to be on that flight, but he missed it.

He said, “He had a ticket to fly out of the country, so we are still in the process of trying to locate some familial contact and working back, but we have not been able to locate any family members.”

Gill says they’re working with refugee communities and their advocates to see if they can learn more about Yahya’s family.

Today’s Top Stories

Crime

draper shooting...
Kira Hoffelmeyer

One man dead after shooting in Draper early Thursday morning

The suspect is still at large after a shooting in Draper, and one man is dead after being shot with a gun. Police are still investigating.
15 hours ago
Police tape is pictured. A hit and run in west valley killed a child last night...
Samantha Herrera

Child dies after hit and run in West Valley

An 11-year-old boy has died after a hit and run in West Valley Wednesday night. Police are continuing to investigate.
15 hours ago
Ogden minor bicycle lane driver arrested...
Simone Seikaly

Ogden man jailed, facing counts of the sexual exploitation of a minor

Michael James Welch, age 31, is accused of uploading child pornography that features two children, ages 12 and 5.
2 days ago
Screenshot of American Fork Police attempting to stop a burglary suspect on August 9, 2022. (Sarah ...
Amie Schaeffer

Video shows chaotic scene of American Fork burglary suspect fleeing Walmart parking lot, suspect remains at large

Authorities in American Fork are searching for a man who was involved in a standoff at a Walmart overnight.
2 days ago
Black Lives Matter...
Aimee Cobabe

Man accused of shooting driver during Black Lives Matter protest trying to get case dismissed

A man who allegedly shot a firearm at a vehicle during a Black Lives Matter protest in Provo is attempting to get his court case thrown out.
2 days ago
reckless driving in centerville...
Mark Jones

Centerville man taken into custody for reported reckless driving incident

Centerville police say a 46-year-old man is in custody after an alleged reckless driving incident through Centerville on Tuesday afternoon.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Deadly force deemed as justified in officer-involved shooting at Pioneer Park