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Lloyd backed up, told the young man to drop the knife and shouted, "Whoa, whoa, he’s got a knife." Lloyd says he fired four shots — the first of which hit a wall — as Brandon Chief continued moving toward him, aiming for his chest. The pair were between six inches and three feet apart, according to forensic evidence.
After being shot, Brandon Chief walked into view of the other officers, one of whom shot him with a Taser. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital. An autopsy showed Brandon Chief was shot twice in the chestand once in the back.
Two shootings, two years apart, with different outcomes
While Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill determined in January 2011 that a West Valley City officer was justified in shooting Brandon Eric Chief, he came to the opposite conclusion in the shooting death of Danielle Willard.
Willard was fatally shot on Nov. 2, 2012, as she sat in her vehicle in front of an apartment complex in West Valley City. Two undercover officers approached Willard’s vehicle because they believed she had just engaged in a drug transaction.
One officer knocked on the driver-side window of Willard’s car, identified himself as an officer and demanded she open the car door. When Willard did not do as instructed, the officer pulled out his gun and pointed it at her.
Willard, 21, still did not open her door, according to the officers. One of them then began walking to his vehicle to retrieve an object to use to smash Willard’s car window. At that point, the officers said Willard put her vehicle in reverse. One officer said he fired at her because he feared he was about to be run over; the other also fired his weapon.
Gill determined in that case that the officers’ version of events did not match the physical evidence and that use of force was not appropriate.
Experts who reviewed the case for the city and the Chiefs came to different conclusions about the position of Brandon Chief’s body during the fatal confrontation — whether Brandon Chief was facing the officer or in the process of turning toward or away from Lloyd — and whether it is possible to determine the sequence of the shots.
The court case » Macfarlane said there is no evidence that Brandon Chief attempted to stab or lunge at Lloyd or threaten to do so, and contends he had his back to the officer when Lloyd fired the first shot and was struck twice more as he turned toward the officer. No firearms were found in the home.
"Another, more experienced officer might have operated differently than Officer Lloyd did," Macfarlane told Stewart in a recent hearing.
Heather S. White, an attorney representing West Valley City, its police department and three officers named as defendants, says Lloyd had no option but to fire at Brandon Chief during their confrontation in the narrow, short hallway inside the home.
"That officer is justified in believing his life, the lives of the officers behind him, the lives of the girls outside, were in danger," White told Stewart.
The officer’s reaction was based on the threat posed by Brandon Chief, not the distance between them, White said. The city’s evidence shows Brandon Chief was struck first in the chest, then side and finally the back, she said.
R. Robert Tressel, a criminal investigator in Georgia hired by the Chiefs to review the case, said Lloyd and the other officers placed themselves in jeopardy by not gathering critical information — they did not know, for instance, where Brandon Chief was or if he was armed — or by trying to defuse the situation before entering the home.
"We have to protect the people that are inside the house, and we also have to protect our suspect," Tressel said, speaking generally about law enforcement practice. "All of our attempts are to avoid the use of lethal force."
In his review of the case, Kenneth R. Wallentine, law enforcement chief for the Utah Attorney General’s Office, said any "reasonable and well-trained officer would immediately prepare to use defensive deadly force in the face of an assailant advancing with a knife."
Lloyd was equipped with other weapons — including a Taser, baton and pepper spray — but they were not viable options, Wallentine said in his report.
"The officers did not have the benefit of what is now known in hindsight, nor does anyone know what Chief would have done if left unchallenged in his rage," he said.
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