'You can’t replace him’: Squad car memorial honors fallen Provo Police Officer Joseph Shinners

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) The police cruiser belonging to Provo police officer Joseph Shinners, who was shot and killed Saturday night, is covered with flowers and mementos while parked outside the Provo police department on Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, so people could pay their respects.

Provo • Squad car No. 374 was barely recognizable under the yellow carnations piled so high that they covered the police siren lights on top. Gold badges, American flags and hockey pucks blanketed the vehicle’s hood. And someone left a box of doughnuts — glazed and coated in sprinkles — above the driver side door.

The makeshift memorial at Joseph Shinners’ patrol car, outside the Provo police department, started late Sunday night, one day after the officer was killed trying to apprehend a fugitive with a long criminal history. For the past 24 hours, residents, coworkers and family have come to add more to the pile of stuffed animals and balloons, to say goodbye and to grieve.

“He was the best of what policing has to offer,” said Jon Gonzales, 25, a dispatcher for the department who became friends with Shinners over the past year and placed his hand on the car for a moment of silence. “He was the kind of cop that people thanked after he pulled them over.”

Shinners, 29, was shot and killed Saturday as police from Provo and Orem tried to arrest Matt Frank Hoover, 40, in the parking lot of a Bed Bath and Beyond. Hoover had skipped court hearings in 2018 while on probation for drug and joyriding convictions.

Hoover also was wounded in the shootout outside the store, at 50 W. University Parkway in Orem, and remains hospitalized, according to police.

In Provo, flags waved from Center Street on Monday, and blue ribbons were tied to nearly every light pole and tree in town. Shinners’ picture stood on a stand outside the department under the “Wall of Honor” recognizing five other fallen Provo police officers.

Shinners' funeral will take place Saturday at 11 a.m., at the UCCU Event Center, 800 W. University Parkway, Orem. A candlelight vigil will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. outside the Provo Police offices, at 48. S. 300 West, the department announced on its Twitter feed.

A picture of Joseph Shinners, a Provo police officer who was killed in the line of duty, is projected at the Provo City Center building during a news conference on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, in Provo, Utah. Shinners, who was shot and killed while trying to apprehend a fugitive, was a three-year veteran of the force who managed to shoot back and strike the suspect at least once after he was hit by gunfire. (Evan Cobb/The Daily Herald via AP)

Hoover has faced a number of charges — including drug offenses, joy riding, shoplifting and forgery — dating back to 1995. Most recently, he was sentenced to probation in 2017 after pleading guilty to felony charges of joyriding in Utah County and drug possession with intent to distribute in Juab County.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, Hoover was on probation for those two crimes when he missed a mandatory court appearance on July 10, 2018, and was declared a fugitive. Warrants were issued for his arrest on July 11 and Oct. 5.

Orem Police have said they were trying to arrest Hoover on the two warrants when shots were fired.

(Photo courtesy Orem Police) Matt Frank Hoover faces charges in connection with the shooting death of a Provo police officer.

Hoover’s last known place of residence was in the Fillmore area, but he had been staying at “various locations throughout Utah and Salt Lake counties," according to Orem police. Charges have not yet been filed, but he is under investigation for aggravated murder, possession of a weapon by a restricted person and possession of methamphetamines.

While the investigation continues, families with ties to Provo’s police department reel from the loss.

Valerie King has a son in the Provo police department who started at the same time as Shinners did about two or three years ago. Officer Cameron Nelson and Shinners were both 29 and had kids about to turn one year old.

“As a mom, just knowing that anything has happened to any officers here, it’s scary,” King said. “It’s just so traumatic.”

She’s worried about her son staying on the force now and is heartbroken for Shinners’ family. King added a string of paper hearts to the side mirror of Shinners’ car that said, “With broken hearts, we honor, respect, appreciate your great example. We will always remember you.”

One woman brought her two kids to place light-up roses on the hood. She told them it was so Shinners “can still see it from heaven.” One man added an angel figurine. Another placed two hockey sticks by the door.

Chari Sorensen brought her two kids, ages 10 and 7, to see the car and visit their dad, a sergeant in the department. They brought a bag full of hearts made out of black construction paper with messages saying, “thank you for your service” and “sorry for your loss” to hang up in the office.

“Officer Shinners was just a great guy, honest and trustworthy,” Sorensen said. “You can’t replace him. It destroys us. It devastates us.”

Her daughter added: “He was a good man.”

Gonzales said Shinners once pulled him over for speeding in town. The officer didn’t realize it was his friend in the driver seat until he rolled down the window.

“Hey buddy, how’s it going?” Shinners said.

The two laughed and Shinners let Gonzales go with just a warning. Gonzales said he was training to join the force and Shinners was mentoring him.

Shinners was born in the Boston area but his family later moved to Springville, where he attended junior high and high school. Craig Jensen, a Springville city councilman, had known Shinners since he was 12 or 13 years old, and said he was “a great kid.”

“Joe was all about service. Did everything right,” Jensen said. “He had a huge heart. He was very protective of his friends and family.”

Rick Bertelsen, who coached Shinners on Springville High School’s boys soccer team for three years and on a local club team for seven, said Shinners “worked very hard, on and off the field.”

“You never had to get after him to play harder in a game,” Bertelsen said. “He always played as hard as he could.”

Shinners also was always the biggest player on the field, Bertelsen said, and in his club days, the coach had to carry Shinners’ birth certificate because other coaches couldn’t believe a 14-year-old kid weighed 150 pounds and was already shaving.

“He got more yellow cards than anyone else that I ever coached,” Bertelsen said. “You combine all of that speed and all of that weight, he couldn’t stop in time. He sent smaller people flying.” Every time, though, Shinners “genuinely did care that if he knocked you down, that you were OK,” the coach said.

Shinners always had his teammates’ backs, Bertelsen said. “If it looked like there would be an altercation on the field, Joe would be the first one there to come to a player’s defense,” he said.

Bertelsen said he believed that mindset carried over into Shinners’ police work. “I’m not surprised that Joe was the one to put himself in the position where he would get shot,” Bertelsen said. “He was always in front in those situations. That was who he was.”

Jensen said Shinners and his wife, Kaylyn, “were high school sweethearts. She waited for him while he went to El Salvador on his mission" for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Shinners are the parents of a 1-year-old son, Logan.

“It’s so sad,” Jensen said. “It’s very hard on the family. But he was doing what was right.”

Bertelsen’s son Jake, one of Shinners' soccer teammates, launched a GoFundMe page Sunday to create a fund for Kaylyn and Logan. The crowdfunding effort met its initial goal, of $35,000, in a day.