West Valley City released body camera footage on Friday showing the moments before an officer shot and killed a DUI suspect last month in a jail intake room beneath city hall.
Video shows that Michael Chad Breinholt, 31, grabbed on to one officer’s gun during a scuffle inside the DUI processing area. Seconds later, he was shot at point-blank range by police. Breinholt was cuffed with his hands behind his back during the confrontation.
Officers arrested Breinholt around 7 p.m. on Aug. 23, after a woman called police saying he had driven to a business near 2900 South and Redwood. The caller told police he was "causing a ruckus,” according to audio from the 911 call. She was also concerned that he’d been driving while intoxicated.
Police took Breinholt into custody, and he ended up in the DUI processing area — a small room with a desk, cabinet and seating for an officer and a suspect, in addition to an alcohol breath testing machine and supplies for drug testing.
Video shows Breinholt sitting in a chair in the intake room. He gets up, tells officers he has a gun in his shoe. An officer tells him to sit back down and says not to worry and that he’ll get the gun.
The officer doesn’t immediately take Breinholt’s shoe, and Breinholt continues trying to stand.
“You don’t want to fight with me. You definitely don’t want to fight with this guy," an officer says calmly, indicating another officer in the room. “Just sit your a__ and stay, OK?”
There is silence for a few moments, and then the officer says, “I’ll tell you what, give me your shoe."
Breinholt doesn’t want to give up the sneaker, which video shows he’d been reaching for and eventually takes off despite the handcuffs. A tussle between Breinholt and the two officers ensue. One officer grabs the shoe.
The whole situation seemed fairly routine until one officer realizes what is happening.
“F_ck — he’s got my gun.” the officer screams. “He’s got my gun!”
Video shows a third officer rush into the room. The four men struggle. An officer yells, “You’re about to die, my friend."
A beat later, an officer fires a single shot within inches of the Breinholt’s head. The man can later be seen lying in a pool of blood.
One officer says, “He’s dead.”
In all, about six seconds pass from the officers trying to get the man’s shoe to the officer firing, police said in a recorded video statement.
Police Chief Colleen Jacobs said at a Friday news conference broadcast live by FOX 13 that police who deal with intoxicated people are accustomed to unpredictable behavior.
“Some people become combative. Some people are very compliant. Some people become passive aggressive. Some people turn into a lump of potatoes and won’t cooperate with anything,” Jacobs said.
Yet, “to have one escalate to this level is unique to us," she said later.
Salt Lake City police are investigating the shooting, as the valley-wide officer-involved critical incident protocol mandates.
Jacobs said because SLCPD is investigating, she doesn’t know if Breinholt really had a gun in his shoe. Normally, she said, police search a suspect before they take them into custody but doesn’t know if that happened in this case.
She added that officers are trained to respond to someone attempting to disarm them “in an aggressive manner” as a deadly threat.
According to Utah law, an officer is justified in using deadly force if they believe doing so will prevent the death or serious injury of themselves or others.
Once SLCPD has finished investigating the shooting, they will turn over the case to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. Prosecutors will determine whether to file criminal charges against the shooting officer.
The shooting officer, who has not been identified, has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Police have previously described him as a veteran officer.
Breinholt is at least the eighth person shot by police this year in Utah, and the sixth person to be killed, according to a Salt Lake Tribune database of police shootings. Last year, police in Utah fatally shot 19 people and injured 25.
He is the third person this August to be killed by Utah police. Jovany Mercado-Bedolla, 26, was killed by Ogden police while wielding a knife outside a house party on Aug. 16, and Riche Santiago, 29, was killed by Salt Lake City police after pointing a gun at them on Aug. 5.