CRIME, POLICE + COURTS

Salt Lake County DA says potentially deadly force justified against man who fired at officers during a breakdown

Feb 11, 2022, 7:11 PM | Updated: Dec 30, 2022, 11:21 am
(Screen shot taken from SLCPD body camera video on July 20, 2021)...
(Screen shot taken from SLCPD body camera video on July 20, 2021)
(Screen shot taken from SLCPD body camera video on July 20, 2021)

SALT LAKE CITY — Was the use of deadly force justified during an officer-involved shooting last July?  The Salt Lake County District Attorney is clearing a Salt Lake City Police officer who fired at a man having a mental breakdown.

Police were called to the apartment of Navada Escholt July 20, 2021, after his estranged wife reported he was drunk, having a breakdown while armed with a gun and threatening to take his own life.  When officers Christian Dunn, Abel Bromley and Jared Benzon arrived, they tried to convince Escholt to come out peacefully, but those attempts failed. 

Potentially deadly force justified

District Attorney Sim Gill said, “Officer Dunn told [Escholt’s estranged wife] that the officers did not want to use forced entry into the apartment and make the situation any worse.”

Body camera video shows the officers decided to stay back, hoping Escholt’s former wife would be able to convince him to exit the apartment.  However, video captured by one officer shows Escholt opened the door.

“He opens the door, sticks his gun out, doesn’t say anything and fires a shot,” Gill said.

The officers immediately took cover behind a tree and a nearby truck, and one officer decided to fire back.

“Officer Bromley returned fire, shooting once at Mr. Escholt still standing in the doorway.  Escholt retreated back into the apartment and closed the door,” Gill said.

Neither Bromley nor Escholt hit their targets.  Gill says Escholt’s bullet hit a nearby car, while Bromley’s was found in a brick wall.

Roughly a minute after the exchange of gunfire, officers heard what sounded like a muffled gunshot. And they believe that’s when Escholt took his own life.  He was found in the bedroom with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Gill says the officers actually showed a lot of restraint not going into the apartment.

He said, “The officers talk about saying, ‘we don’t want this to escalate, even though there are warrants and we may have to arrest him.’  That’s not what they’re really trying to do.  They’re trying to figure out how they can get him the help that he needs.”

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Salt Lake County DA says potentially deadly force justified against man who fired at officers during a breakdown