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West Jordan officer cleared in deadly shooting of California fugitive

Posted at 5:09 PM, Apr 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-01 19:48:58-04

WEST JORDAN, Utah — The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has found a West Jordan officer was justified in his use of deadly force against a wanted fugitive last July.

On July 5, 2019, police working under the direction of the FBI attempted to arrest Jose Martinez, who was accused of several violent felony crimes and wanted on a $500,000 warrant in California.

Utah-based law enforcement agencies learned Martinez arrived in Utah on or around June 28 that year, and that he had gone to a relative's home.

The search for Martinez led task force officers and SWAT team members to a West Jordan condominium.

"A task force officer informed SWAT team members that Mr. Martinez had a gun, or at least that he should be considered armed and dangerous," according to a summary report of the officer-involved critical incident.

Officers ordered Martinez to come out of the condo unit and surrender peacefully, but he refused, the report said.

"During the many exchanges with Mr. Martinez, SWAT members told Mr. Martinez to throw the gun down to them to which he replied: 'No, no.'," the report said. "Mr. Martinez, told SWAT team members his family would see him at his grave.

Officers tried using "CS vapor" (commonly known as tear gas) and a "sting-ball" distraction device to get Martinez to surrender.

Footage from the West Jordan officer's body-worn camera shows Martinez coming toward him and clutching a pair of scissors. At that point, the officer opened fire on Martinez, who died of his gunshot wound injuries.

"In his interview, [the West Jordan officer] explained that, based on what he had observed as the events unfolded and what he had been told, he believed Mr. Martinez had a gun that he was pointing at him and the other SWAT team members. [The officer] said he believed he had to fire his weapon at Mr. Martinez to prevent Mr. Martinez from shooting and killing him and the other SWAT team members," the report said.

West Valley City Police led an independent investigation of the shooting, resulting in the DA's Office findings that the West Jordan officer who opened fire on Martinez was legally justified in doing so.

"We believe that [the officer] would be able to claim successfully at trial that he reasonably believed the 'use of deadly force [wa]s necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person," the report said.