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Police ID gunman killed after wounding two SLC cops

Published March 28, 2014 1:54 pm

Early-morning firefight • Gunman was wanted in California.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A wanted man was killed and two police officers wounded from gunshots after a traffic stop in downtown Salt Lake City erupted into a firefight early Friday morning.

The man who died in the shootout was identified as 34-year-old Christopher Leo Knight, from Lakeport, Calif., who was wanted by California authorities on suspicion of a drug possession.

The gun battle occurred about 2:15 a.m. Friday after the two city patrol officers stopped a mud-splattered, light-colored Jeep near 300 South and West Temple.

"About 2:15 this morning, our officers conducted a traffic stop on West Temple," Police Chief Chris Burbank said at a press conference Friday afternoon. "As they were conducting that stop, there was some question about what was going on in the car and the passenger."

The passenger, later identified as Knight, had been giving misleading answers and engaging in behavior that the officers considered suspicious, said Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Heiden.

That's when the officers ordered Knight out of the car.

As he got out, Knight produced a handgun and shot at both officers, police said.

Officer Mo Tafisi, a veteran of 9 years, was hit in the left arm. Officer Dan Tueller, who has been with the department for 18 months, was struck in the left thigh.

Both officers returned fire, killing Knight at the scene, Burbank said.

"We don't celebrate the fact that our officers had to use deadly force," the chief told reporters. "But given the circumstances, I would say they both performed their duty admirably. ... Each one credited the other for saving his life."

By mid-afternoon Friday, Tafisi had been released from the hospital and was recovering at home.

Tueller remained in the hospital, where he had just undergone surgery.

Police did not say how many times Knight was shot, or how many times he fired at the officers.

Salt Lake City police noted that Knight has no criminal history in the state of Utah, but according to California records, an arrest warrant was issued for Knight in April 2013 on suspicion of felony methamphetamine possession.

The warrant describes him as a Latino man with brown hair and brown eyes, who was 6-foot-1 and weighed 210 pounds.

The driver of the SUV, who was not hurt, was taken into custody and then released after being questioned by detectives for much of the morning.

Burbank said detectives had conducted a thorough search of the vehicle, but declined to comment on what, if anything was found inside.

Neither officer was wearing cameras on their uniform, which Burbank said would have provided a more accurate picture of what happened on the corner Friday morning.

Heiden said the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office, as well as the SLCPD's own Internal Affairs unit, will review the shooting.

A Friday afternoon tweet from a Salt Lake City police department account stated, "We daily see the fragility of life, but when it hits this close to home, one is reminded of what our officers do willingly every day."

Burbank extended prayers to the officers' families and noted that traffic stops — unlike situations where police respond to calls for help — are substantially more dangerous because officers head into "the unknown."

Friday night, police asked for the public's help locating Melissa Medina, 36. Investigators believe Medina may have traveled to Utah with Knight and was with him recently.

Police believe Medina may be staying at a Salt Lake County motel. Her car may be a silver Hyundai Elantra with Washington license plate number AMR2513.

Anyone with information about Medina should call police at 801-799-3000. Tips may be sent anonymously by texting the word TIPSLCPD plus any relevant information to 274637.

remims@sltrib.com, mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @remims, @marissa_jae