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DA says police-worn body cameras should be the norm after reviewing shooting



The Salt Lake County District Attorney, Sim Gill, said a fatal police shooting last fall was justified.

22-year-old Matthew Cameron Knowlden was shot and killed by police Sept. 18, 2020 in Midvale. Unified and West Valley City police had tracked down a wanted fugitive, and Knowlden was in the car with him. Police spiked the tires of the stolen car they were in, and four people ran out of the car.

Knowlden was shot and killed after the DA said he pointed a gun at police. Gill said the police body camera footage helped corroborate the accounts of police officers involved.

The shooting happened very fast, but Gill played it through frame by frame. The video shows an officer getting out of their car, as the suspect and others run from police. You see another officer cross in front, then suddenly change directions. Gill said that was the critical moment.

“You can see that right there her momentum is completely changed. Because she was on a trajectory to intercept mister Knowlden, who she thought was running, but didn’t realize he had a gun. That’s why she’s got her taser drawn out. Because she’s going to do less lethal contact with him,” Gill said.

After that moment, the officer took cover behind a car, dropped her taser, and picked up her gun. At that point, two other officers had already shot at Knowlden.

The DA said they went back and zoomed in on the footage. He said it shows Knowlden holding the gun, hands together and arms raised. He said that’s a sign to officers that he may fire.

Knowlden did not fire his gun — Gill said his safety was on — so they can’t know if he tried to fire or not.

Gill said the body camera footage played an important role in determining not to press charges against the officers involved — but he only had footage from one officer involved, the one from West Valley City. The two Unified officers didn’t have cameras.

“We have 376 sworn officers, and with that we have 125 body cameras,” said Sgt. Melody Cutler, public information officer for the Unified Police Department.

She said they have asked the UPD board for more cameras. And with Taylorsville leaving Unified Police soon and forming its own department, that will open up even more.

Cutler wanted to be clear, the shortage isn’t because they can’t afford the actual cameras.

The costly part is the storage of the video,” she said.

Cutler, and the DA, said body cameras don’t show exactly what an officer sees, but they help put the pieces together of what happened. The footage can corroborate police accounts, help clear officers if complaints are filed, and create transparency with the people they serve.

“It also answers the questions for our community, because they should take a critical eye,” said Gill.

Gill said we are at a place, technology-wise, where police body cameras should be the norm. Unified Police hope to get closer to that goal by the new fiscal year starting in July.

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