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Man accused of killing Provo Police Master Officer Joseph Shinners makes first appearance in court

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 23:00:23-05

PROVO, Utah -- The man accused of killing Provo Police master officer, Joseph Shinners made his first appearance in court Monday.

Matt Frank Hoover, who police say killed one of their own, may be forced to face the same fate.

In an initial appearance that lasted a lot longer than usual, the judge determined if the public defenders assigned to Hoover, which include Tom Means, are qualified to handle a death penalty case, even though prosecutor, Chad Grunander, says they're still deciding whether or not to pursue it.

"There’s a number of factors that will go into making that decision. The position of the family. The strength of the case," said Grunander.

Police say Hoover shot and killed Shinners while evading arrest in Orem on January 5th. According to court documents, Hoover had outstanding felony and misdemeanor warrants at the time. Prosecutors can seek the death penalty because Shinners was a police officer, but that's not the only reason.

"He was in the process of trying to evade arrest when this homicide occurred and there was more than one person that was put at great risk of death. Those are two additional aggravating factors beyond the fact that officer Joe Shinners was a peace officer," said Grunander.

One of the people considered to be at risk was a woman who was in the car with Hoover at the time. Prosecutors say it's unlikely she'll face any charges.

"Her presence in the vehicle adds to one of those aggravated factors as far as another person being put at great risk of death, so to that degree, she’s viewed as a victim in this case," said Grunander.

Over the next few months, attorneys on both sides will be combing through hours and hours of body camera footage before the next hearing scheduled for March 4.

According to the statute, the prosecutor has 60 days after the preliminary hearing to decide if they want to pursue the death penalty so there are still several months before that decision will likely be made.

"Very sobering. For Mr. Hoover, I’m sure his heads in a fog today. Today’s appearance was probably very overwhelming for him," said Means.