West Valley City police officer found dead in Wyoming
A West Valley City police officer missing since Tuesday was found dead late Thursday evening in Wyoming, the apparent victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
West Jordan police Sgt. Dan Roberts confirmed Friday morning that body of Michael Valdes, 37, was located in southwestern Wyoming's Sweetwater County. Roberts said Valdes' remains had been found at the scene of a single-vehicle crash, with further investigation determining he had died in an apparent suicide.
Sweetwater County Sheriff's Det. Dick Blust said Valdes' body was found about 10 p.m. Thursday inside his black 2006 Infiniti sedan, which was discovered crashed inside the westbound Interstate 80 tunnels area near Green River, Wyo. Valdes had suffered a single gunshot wound to the head, Sweetwater County Coroner Dale Majhanovich later determined.
Blust said deputies also recovered a Glock semi-automatic handgun at the scene.
Roberts said that while Valdes served as a police officer in neighboring West Valley City, he and his family resided in West Jordan.
Valdes was reported missing after he failed to show up for his work shift Tuesday night, Roberts said. He was last thought to have been seen alive by his wife, who said he told her he was leaving for work. He never arrived.
"Our hearts go out to his family, friends and co-workers who have asked that their privacy be respected," Roberts said. "Michael will always be remembered for his big smile, dedication to his family and service to his community and country."
Roberts said Valdes' disappearance and death remained under investigation, but so far detectives had found no indication that he had been depressed or was having domestic, personal or professional problems that may have led to depression.
West Valley City Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell said the apparent suicide had rocked his department.
"Everyone liked [Valdes]. This is going to be tough for a lot of officers here who knew him as a friend," Powell said.
Powell stressed that Valdes was not connected in any way with other headline-grabbing issues that faced WVCPD this week including the ongoing investigation into two drug detectives' fatal shooting of an unarmed woman, Danielle Willard, last November; and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill's decision to dismiss 19 mostly drug-related cases due to concerns over the credibility of an investigator, who has been identified by other sources as being involved in the Willard shooting.
"[Valdes] was not involved in any of those matters, in any way whatsoever," Powell said.