Salt Lake County prosecutors decline to charge police officer who fatally shot teenage armed robbery suspect

The Salt Lake County district attorney declined to file charges against a Cottonwood Heights police officer who shot and killed an 18-year-old armed robbery suspect in May.

Officer Casey Davies fatally shot Zane Anthony James after the teenager led officers on a chase. Davies didn’t give a statement to the district attorney’s office, but prosecutors deemed the May 29 shooting justified based on interviews with other officers at the scene, photos and video footage of the shooting, District Attorney Sim Gill announced Tuesday in a letter to Cottonwood Heights Police Chief Robby Russo.

An internal investigation by the police department found Davies “acted within policy and with the boundaries of the law,” according to a news release.

Before he was shot, James allegedly robbed two grocery stores in Sandy at gunpoint, a Smith’s and a Macey’s. Both times he reportedly pulled a gun on employees before taking the cash. He fled on a dirt bike. Officers caught up with James about 6:09 a.m. near Camino Way and 2300 East.

They chased him until he crashed three minutes later at 6675 South 2200 East. James ran away and, according to officers, began reaching into and digging through his pockets and clothing, the DA’s letter states.

James apparently kept digging, even after officers ordered him to stop and show his hands, and Davies fired at him twice, hitting him both times. James later died at the hospital.

Police found a black and silver pistol-style pellet gun in James’ pocket, according to the letter.

While Davies didn’t speak with police, Gill said based on the information from other officers at the scene — including that James reached for his pockets and had reportedly just used a handgun in the earlier armed robberies — he inferred the shooting was justified.

Utah law states an officer can use deadly force only when he or she reasonably believes the force is necessary to prevent death or serious injury to the officer or another person.

Another officer who was at the scene told prosecutors that he would have drawn his weapon and fired at James if Davies hadn’t fired first. A third officer told investigators that after the shooting, Davies told them he fired because James reached for something on the left side of his body, where police later found the pellet gun.

So far in 2018, Gill’s office has screened seven officer-involved shooting cases. This is the third time an officer has invoked their 5th Amendment rights to not incriminate themselves by not giving a statement to Gill’s office. The first case involved Granite School District Officer Jonathan Sidhu and West Valley City Officer Nicholaus Green.

Gill’s office declined to press charges in both of those cases. The last officer prosecuted for a police shooting in Salt Lake County was Adult Probation and Parole Agent Andrew O’Gwin. The agent shot Joe Alvin Gomez three times on May 13, 2017, when Gomez pulled his vehicle alongside O’Gwin’s at a stoplight and got out of his vehicle. O’Gwin told police Gomez — who survived the shooting — tried to break into his car and that he feared for his life. Witnesses have said they never saw Gomez touch the vehicle. That case is still pending.