A Wellington City officer told a reportedly suicidal man multiple times to drop his knives and that he didn’t want to shoot him before ultimately firing multiple rounds, killing the man who approached the officer with at least one weapon, video footage released Friday shows.
Carbon County Attorney Jeremiah C. Humes wrote in a letter released the same day that he wouldn’t be filing charges against the shooting officer, identified only as Officer Safley.
The just more than eight minutes of video from the fatal Sept. 10 confrontation begins inside Safley’s police vehicle and follows him as he exits the vehicle and finds Bobby Ray Duckworth, 26, in a field near a fishing pond and railroad tracks.
Safley was sent to that area near 900 E. Railroad Ave. for reports of a suicidal man.
Video shows that Safley shouts at Duckworth, asking the man to talk to him and saying, “What’s going on?”
Safley also tells dispatchers the man has two knives.
The officer continues trying to talk to Duckworth, saying, “Look at me, man. Officer Safley. I want to help you, man. Can you put the knives down for me?”
Duckworth appears to say something to the officer, but the audio is unclear.
Safley responds, “I’m not going to shoot you, if that’s what you want. That’s the last thing we want to do, brother. We want to help you.”
About a minute later, Duckworth begins walking toward Safley, climbing through brush as he apparently still carries at least one knife knife in his hand.
Safley says, “Put the knife down. I don’t want to shoot you, but I will.”
The officer retreats back onto the railroad tracks as Duckworth continues approaching. Safley has his gun readied.
He yells, “Put it down!" And Duckworth keeps walking forward. Safley fires multiple rounds, and Duckworth drops on the rocks near the tracks.
About 30 seconds passed from the time Duckworth started walking toward the officer to when Safley shoots him.
In Humes’ letter, the district attorney says his office reviewed a written report about the confrontation, witness statements and additional materials.
He determined that Safley acted lawfully and shot Duckworth to “ensure public safety" after he’d witnessed “a serious threat to human safety.”
Humes wrote that Safley attempted to talk to Duckworth and help him, and that Duckworth responded by coming toward Safley “in an aggressive manner” while holding a knife.
Safley backed away from Duckworth, Humes wrote, giving the officer time to make additional commands and warnings, but that Duckworth continued forward.
Humes said Safley had no cover available and that if he’d tried to retreat further, he may have tripped on the loose gravel or other hazards.
Given all this, Humes said Safley’s use of force was both reasonable and justified, since the officer believed the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent his own death or serious injury, or the death or serious injury of someone else.
Thus, Humes said, he found no criminal conduct and declined to prosecute.
“I thank the Critical Incident Task Force for the time and for the immense resources and energy devoted to this very thorough, comprehensive, and professional investigation,” he wrote. “I also express my deepest sympathies to the family and loved ones of Mr. Duckworth for their loss.”
Correction: 6:27 p.m., Oct. 5, 2019 • An earlier version of this story misstated the year of the fatal police shooting. It was Sept. 10, 2019.