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Family of man shot, killed by police says drugs led him into trouble

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Posted at 9:27 PM, Jan 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-14 23:30:18-05

DRAPER, Utah -- A man shot and killed by police in Draper Wednesday morning has been identified as Jeffrey Nielson, 34, of Sandy.

According to authorities, Nielson was shot after he pulled a knife on four officers who were trying to arrest him in the neighborhood of 120 East Honey Berry Court in Draper.

“He was having a hard time, and it’s a sad situation,” said Trina Massa, Nielson’s mother-in-law.

Massa’s daughter had been married to Nielson for nearly decade. The two were happy, raising three children together in Sandy. But over the last year, Massa said Nielson ran into some trouble.

"Drugs, they're just the devil, makes somebody somebody else--not themselves,” Massa said. "It just wasn't the Jeff that she loved. It's not the same guy. She thought she could help him.”

According to Massa, Nielson developed a drug problem that eventually led to a No Contact Order and separation with his wife.

“His mind was just a mess,” she said.

But the family has no idea why police found Nielson in Draper, where authorities said he was slumped over in the driver’s seat of a SUV.

West Valley City Police Officer Jason Vincent was leaving his home to head to work when he noticed Nielson and called Draper Police for back-up.

“This happened in very close proximity, and it happened very fast,” said Assistant Draper Police Chief John Eining.

Two officers from Draper responded, as well as a West Valley Police Sergeant, who happened to be heading home from work in the neighborhood.

According to Eining, the officers discovered drugs either on Nielson or in his car. When they tried to arrest him, Eining said Nielson started to fight with them.

“The suspect runs back towards his vehicle,” Eining said. “There's a struggle to get the suspect out of the vehicle. During the struggle, a knife is produced.”

Nielson held out a kitchen knife, measuring about 8-inches long, according to Eining. At that point, Officer Vincent was standing behind a Draper Police officer, who was directly in front of Nielson. When the knife was taken out, Vincent fired his gun, shooting and killing Nielson.

The family had not learned all of the details of the shooting Wednesday night, but stated the outcome was never something they could have anticipated.

“I just wanted to see him happy,” said Massa. “I just wanted to see them all happy and try and work through it."