A Utah Highway Patrol trooper was justified in shooting and wounding a suspect during a July manhunt in Salt Lake County, prosecutors have determined.
Kody Scott Sturgeon was driving on Interstate 15 near 1300 South about 1:40 a.m. July 14, when a trooper pulled him over for alleged lane change violations, according to a statement released Thursday by Salt Lake County prosecutor Sim Gill. Sturgeon provided a false identification and Social Security number to the trooper, as Sturgeon had violated his parole, Gill wrote.
As the trooper tried to check the information, a female passenger in the car got out of the car and stepped onto the highway, according to previous police statements. When the officer tried to rescue the woman, Sturgeon drove away, police have said.
The passenger said she got out of the car because Sturgeon said he planned to flee, Gill wrote.
The trooper followed Sturgeon until he lost sight of the car but found it again, parked and unoccupied near State Street and Interstate 80. Troopers and police dogs began searching for Sturgeon.
Meanwhile, Sturgeon had climbed over fences to a nearby storage facility, Gill wrote. He approached a man who was opening one of the units, displayed a gun and told the man to get into the unit, Gill wrote. Sturgeon allegedly told the man he was running from police.
But Utah Highway Patrol trooper Mitch Sullivan saw the two men in the storage unit and recognized Sturgeon from his physical description, Gill wrote. Sullivan and two other officers ordered the men to come out, Gill wrote. As Sturgeon approached, he pointed a gun at officers, Gill wrote. Sullivan yelled "Gun!" and Sturgeon turned and ran away, with Sullivan in pursuit, Gill wrote.
Sturgeon turned and pointed the gun at Sullivan, Gill wrote, so Sullivan fired four shots at Sturgeon. Sturgeon turned and pointed the gun at Sullivan three separate times, prompting Sullivan to fire shots at Sturgeon each time, Gill wrote. Sullivan fired seven rounds total, non-lethally striking Sturgeon once in the hand and once in the leg.
Officers later learned that Sturgeon’s gun was an air pistol, Gill wrote. But Gill found that Sullivan reasonably believed that shooting Sturgeon was necessary to defend himself and others.
Sturgeon, 35, has not been charged in connection with the case. Gill said prosecutors were awaiting a ruling on Sullivan’s actions before screening a case against Sturgeon.
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