Body camera footage released Wednesday by the Salt Lake City Police Department shows an officer firing twice at a man who had fled police, moments after the man shot through the door of an occupied office building in early September.
Police found the man they were chasing, 35-year-old Michael Zahn, inside the building about 25 minutes later. He was dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Police officials released the footage of the Sept. 5 confrontation under a mayoral order that requires the release of body camera footage 10 business days after a police shooting. But they declined to answer questions about what happened because West Valley City police are still investigating. A valleywide protocol for officer-involved critical incidents mandates that an outside agency will investigate an officer’s use of force.
The series of events began about 3:45 p.m., when a manager at the Homewood Suites hotel, 423 W. 300 South, called 911 to report people trespassing in one of the rooms, Captain Ty Farillas said during a Wednesday news briefing.
“I’ve got some unruly guests,” the caller told a dispatcher, according to audio of the call released through a records request under the Government Records Access and Management Act.
The caller told police two of the guests had registered for the room, but hotel staff believed “there’s more in there than there’s supposed to be.”
Police arrived a few minutes later and spoke to the guests, who then left voluntarily. Soon after, officers ran the guests' names through a system that tracks warrants and learned one of them, Zahn, was on parole and wanted for a weapons violation, Farillas said.
Officers found Zahn across the street from the hotel and tried to arrest him, but Zahn ran away. Released body camera footage begins at about this time.
Footage shows police chased Zahn to an alleyway at approximately 330 South and 400 West, near Pioneer Park.
During the chase, one officer yells at him, “Police! Stop now.” Then Zahn apparently climbs over a chain-link fence into a courtyard, where footage shows another man, also wearing a white shirt. A loud bang can be heard — surveillance footage shows Zahn punched the door — and the officer yells, “Hey! Stop right there,” followed by, “He’s got a gun.”
A gunshot rings out as Zahn shoots through the glass door and goes inside the occupied office building; the officer fires twice into the courtyard.
No one was struck, Farillas said. Employees in the building self-evacuated. Officers later found Zahn dead. Farillas said the medical examiner’s autopsy confirmed what police believed: Zahn died from a self-inflicted gunshot.
“We would like to make it known that in an abundance of caution, SLCPD invoked the officer-involved critical incident [protocol] for this incident; however, no rounds from an officer caused harm or injury to the suspect,” Farillas said. “These are the facts as we know them today.”
The Salt Lake City officer who fired the weapon is on paid administrative leave during the investigation. The officer’s name has not been released.
The city’s Civilian Review Board and the police department’s internal affairs staff also will investigate, Farillas said.
This shooting was the department’s second officer-involved critical incident of the year and the first nonfatal one.
An officer killed 32-year-old Delorean Pikyavit during a standoff in April after Pikyavit allegedly assaulted his girlfriend. Pikyavit had told officers to shoot him and was holding either a knife or scissors in his hands when he was killed. West Valley City police and the Salt Lake County district attorney’s office haven’t yet ruled on the shooting.
Last year at this time, the department had been involved in two of these types of confrontations, Farillas said.