The Unified police officer who shot and killed a man who was holding his ex-girlfriend hostage in a pickup truck in Magna in April will not be charged in the man’s death, the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s office announced Wednesday.
While Officer Trevor McClelland declined to give prosecutors a statement about the shooting — McClelland is the fourth Salt Lake County officer to do so this year — District Attorney Sim Gill said in a letter explaining that body camera footage and statements' from other officers indicated the shooting was justified under Utah law.
Lonnie Marcel Bowen was killed April 17, when police found him inside a pickup truck holding a knife to his ex-girlfriend’s throat. The woman told investigators Bowen had surprised her outside her car around 11 p.m. the night before. She said he was “off his meds” and acting delusional. He reportedly punched her in the mouth and forced her into his truck, where he accused her of working with the police to have him killed.
Two days before his death, Bowen posted videos to a Facebook page he appeared to share with a woman. In the videos, he said police wanted him dead. He told viewers that police would try to cover up his death. Bowen forced the woman to drive him around.
For the next several hours, Bowen and sometimes the woman called 911 to report the hostage situation and ask for a negotiator. The pair never gave police a good address. Dispatcher pinged the man’s phone to Millcreek and later West Valley City.
The man told dispatchers multiple times as officers tried to find the truck that he would stab the woman in the throat, according to the letter.
Police later found the pickup near 3100 South and 5600 West. Officers chased the pickup and used spike strips, which eventually stopped the truck near 2750 South and 8400 West.
Officers approached the pickup. A West Valley City officer who responded to the scene said McClelland yelled at Bowen, who was pulling the woman towards him in the passenger seat, to let the woman go. When the man didn’t, McClelland fired four or five rounds into the driver’s side window, hitting Bowen in the passenger seat.
Body camera footage shows that Bowen had a knife — described as 9 inches long, with a 5-inch blade — in his hand after the shooting, according to the letter.
“While we don’t know [because McClelland] didn’t answer questions or give a statement, as is his right not to] what Officer McClelland saw or heard or believed at the time he used deadly force, we know what he could have seen or heard or believed, based on the facts we presently know," Gill wrote.
Cottonwood Heights Officer Casey Davies, West Valley City officer Nicholaus Green and Granite School District officer Jonathan Sidhu have each previously declined to give Gill a statement after shooting suspects. Utah Fraternal Order of Police attorney Bret Rawson told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this month that he doesn’t trust Gill and thinks his prosecutorial decisions are politically motivated.
Gill, who is up for re-election this year, denied those claims. In his eight-year tenure as district attorney, he’s evaluated about 65 police shootings. He’s found four to be unjustified and filed charges in three of those cases.