Officer in Magna neighborhood shootout was justified in firing gun
Published: February 18, 2014 12:51PM
Updated: February 18, 2014 10:24PM
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The scene of a shooting in Magna after a man reportedly tried to cash or deposit a forged or bad check Jim Dalrymple II | Salt Lake Tribune

Officer Dustin Olzack was sprinting into a Magna neighborhood after a suspected bank robber when he saw the man whip out MAC-10 machine pistol.

“Gun, gun,” Olzack yelled into his radio, according to documents released Tuesday.

Seconds later, the suspected robber fired several shots. Olzack shot back.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled Tuesday that Olzack — an officer with the Unified Police Department — was justified in engaging in the gunbattle. The ruling explains that Olzack “reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary to defend himself” because the suspect “threatened him with death or seriously bodily injury.”

The incident began just before 2 p.m. Feb. 6 when the suspect, later identified as Michael Jerome Joseph, 33, walked into a Wells Fargo at 8295 W. 3500 South in Magna and tried to pass a bad check, according to the documents. Olzack and two other officers soon arrived. They tried to arrest Joseph as he left the bank, but he managed to break free and ran, according to the documents.

Joseph went about 50 yards down a busy 3500 South, and then turned left into an adjacent residential neighborhood. According to the documents, Olzack managed to keep up with Joseph, but another officer fell behind. A third officer was coming up behind in his car.

As Joseph rounded a corner in the neighborhood, he allegedly fired in Olzack’s direction. The other officer, who couldn’t see Joseph at the time, then saw Olzack pull out his gun and return fire, according to the documents. Olzack did not fire first, the other officer told investigators.

After Olzack fired, Joseph dropped to the ground and police arrested him. As he was taken into custody, he “uttered something to the effect that he should have shot himself,” the documents add.

Investigators later found three spent bullet casings from Joseph’s gun and two from Olzack’s. None of the shots hit anyone, though Joseph had a bullet hole in his jacket, indicating Olzack just barely missed him.

Gill’s finding Tuesday rules that Olzack was justified because he was protecting himself and because he “had probable cause to believe that deadly force was necessary to prevent Joseph’s apprehension from being delayed because of Joseph’s imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

Prosecutors charged Joseph with attempted aggravated murder, two counts of felony discharge of a firearm and possession of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, all first-degree felonies. They also charged him with forgery and identity fraud, third-degree felonies, as well as misdemeanors for failing to stop for police and for theft. His first court appearance is scheduled for Thursday.

jdalrymple@sltrib.com

Twitter: @jimmycdii