NewsLocal News


Manslaughter charge filed against deputy in deadly car accident that killed BYU student

Posted at 5:12 PM, Mar 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-07 20:42:42-05

PROVO, Utah — A manslaughter charge has been filed against a Utah County Sheriff's Deputy for his involvement in the March 2021 death of a BYU student in Provo.

The second-degree felony charge was filed Monday by the Summit County Attorney's Office after it was asked to investigate the vehicle accident in which 22-year-old Joseph Spencer was killed.

On March 16, Joseph Richardson was in his own vehicle headed to a Pleasant Grove home where a man had fired at police and barricaded himself inside. Spencer was pulling out of a Taco Bell at 400 North and 900 East when he was struck by Richardson's Toyota Tacoma pickup truck.

Documents show Richardson was driving nearly 58 miles per hour when he hit Spencer, which was higher than posted speed limit. Richardson allegedly told a police officer that he had seen Spencer pulling out of the parking lot before hitting him.

"As I was coming down here I saw him start to pull out in front of me. I shouldn't... I shouldn't have tried to beat him," Richardson told the officer.

Joseph Spencer memorial
Memorial for BYU student Joseph Spencer who was killed in an accident involving a Utah County sheriff's deputy.

Due to a possible conflict of interest, Summit County Attorney Margaret Olsen was asked to review the matter and decide if the deputy should be charged.

Utah County Attorney David Leavitt released the following statement Monday evening:

"I want to express my appreciation to the Summit County Attorney, Margaret Olson, for taking on this difficult case. I also want to thank the multiple law enforcement agencies working through a lengthy investigation. They provided additional investigation requested by our Bureau of Investigations. It was a thorough and lengthy investigation. The facts and evidence were then provided to the Summit County Attorney for a review of the evidence and a charging decision."

Utah County Sheriff Mike Smith also gave a statement:

“Due to a pending law suit we are not able to say much about this accident. Our deputy, who has been with the Utah County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years, has been on leave pending the outcome of this investigation since the accident occurred. This incident is a tragedy for all involved. Our hearts are broken for the loss and pain this accident has caused.”