Two police officers were justified in fatally shooting an armed man, Weber County Attorney Chris Allred has determined.
In a letter dated last Friday, Allred told Roy police Chief Carl Merino that officers Cash Ricks and Robert Jackson had reason to believe that deadly force was necessary in a Feb. 21 struggle with 38-year-old Nicolas Sanchez that ended in two officers fatally shooting the Layton man.
“The city is pleased with the decision of the Weber County Attorney, concluding what the city has known all along: the officers were justified in using deadly force,” attorney Heather White, who represents the city of Roy, said in a statement Tuesday.
The two officers were put on paid administrative leave after the Feb. 21 shooting but returned to duty “quite some time ago,” according to White.
The officers had been dispatched to a convenience store in Roy to respond to a report of a man “acting suspiciously,” Allred wrote. The officers’ body camera footage, released in March, shows Sanchez standing near the doorway of the convenience store when the officers arrive.
The video shows officers asking Sanchez to step away from the doorway to talk. Sanchez resists and asks what he did before agreeing. As he steps toward the officers, video shows Sanchez putting his right hand in his pants pocket and an officer tells him to keep his hands visible.
Sanchez said, “I don‘t have nothing,” as he takes his hand out of his pocket. He briefly lifts his sweatshirt, revealing a glimpse of a gun tucked into his waistband.
Both officers immediately warn Sanchez not to touch the gun, the video shows. Sanchez backs away, and Ricks tries to grab him, then chases and tackles him.
“Ricks was afraid Sanchez was going to draw the gun, and he continued to tussle with Sanchez as he pursued him out into the parking lot,” Allred wrote in the letter. Jackson fired a shot at Sanchez after he reportedly saw Sanchez reach for his gun during the struggle.
Ricks reported Sanchez pointed the gun at his face, according to the letter. Ricks knocked the gun loose and then, reportedly not knowing whether the man had any other weapons, fired three shots at Sanchez with the man’s own gun.
Jackson fired several more shots at Sanchez, expressing fear that Sanchez would shoot the officers.
Sanchez died at the scene. Neither officer was harmed in the incident.
The officers were “lawfully entitled to remove the weapon from Sanchez,” Allred wrote in the letter, adding that it was reasonable “to believe that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury” to the officers.
Allred’s letter cites Sanchez’s criminal history, but said the background does not alter the analysis of the officers’ conduct.
“However, it does point up the potential danger these officers face whenever they are called out, and I wanted you to be aware of the entire circumstances,” Allred wrote.
Despite felony charges that prevented him from legally carrying a gun, Sanchez “carried a gun with him everywhere he went,” Allred quotes a witness as saying. The witness also reportedly said that “Sanchez would have shot it out with the police before going back to prison, adding, ‘Why do you think he carried a gun?’ “