Salt Lake County prosecutors said 15 officers were legally justified in shooting and killing a man who led them on a chase from downtown Salt Lake City to South Salt Lake in April and had been firing at police, cars and buildings.
District Attorney Sim Gill said during a Friday news conference that his office watched multiple surveillance and civilian videos, police body and dash camera footage, and talked to witnesses and officers to determine all police who shot did so because they believed it was necessary to prevent the death or serious injury of others — one of Utah’s standard for a legal police shooting.
Gill characterized the April 8 series of robberies-turned chase-turned shootout as a highly volatile situation and said it was fortunate no one else besides Harold Robinson was injured or killed. He added the officers responded appropriately to the “dynamic and fast-moving threat.”
“We are very, very lucky that we did not have a civilian casualty — citizens being shot — as well as law enforcement officers, because there were multiple times when the suspect fired into a very crowded city,” Gill said.
Families members told prosecutors that Robinson felt “agitated” and “anxious" that Monday morning. He left Duchesne around 6 a.m. in his white pickup truck, saying he was going on a “long drive” to calm down, Gill said. The family has said Robinson was struggling with mental illness.
Robinson stopped first around 9:45 a.m., when he robbed a Holiday Oil in Taylorsville.
From there, he went to a Millcreek 7-11. He arrived around 10:20 a.m., taking a case of beer, a carton of cigarettes and cash at gunpoint. He fired one round into the store’s ceiling.
Approximately 20 minutes later, Robinson arrived in downtown Salt Lake City and shot at the Sheraton Hotel, 150 W. 500 South.
Through a series of videos gathered from local businesses and numerous 911 calls from people downtown, investigators tracked Robinson’s movements.
He fired three shots in the air near 136 S. Main St. He shot at the Marriott Center on 270 S. State St. He stopped in the middle of 500 South and fired at Salt Lake City Hall. Then shot a car at 500 South and 200 East. Then at 500 South and 300 East.
Salt Lake City and Unified police and Utah Highway Patrol troopers chased Robinson from there south on State Street. The pursuit ended when Robinson crashed his truck into Princess Alterations at 3339 S. State St.
Officers opened fire on Robinson, who was still inside the pickup truck. He got out, and police kept shooting.
Gill said officers fired 196 times in all. Robinson died at the scene. Officers found a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun in his pickup.
Salt Lake City officers Brandon Lynch, Bryce Cantwell, Darren Mackay, Colin Fugit, Ben Nielsen, Chris Howell, Richard Stone, Metui Tautua’a, Brandon Johnson and Ammon Maugu; troopers Jed Miller, Jon Thompson and Sgt. Chris Shelby; and Unified police detectives Chris Sullivan and Scott Lloyd all fired on Robinson.
No troopers or UPD officers spoke to prosecutors about their use of lethal force.
Even without those police interviews, Gill said that with SLCPD officer testimony and the copious video footage, his office was able to get a complete picture of what happened that day and determined the shootings were justified.
Gill said his investigators weren’t focused on how many times police fired or any potential policy issues related to them shooting into an occupied building.
“It was a massive show of force,” Gill said, “but considering the complexity of the situation and the risk that was put to our community, I think those officers, under those circumstances, acted as professionally as they could.”
Robinson’s family released a statement to prosecutors, saying that leading up to the shooting, Robinson had tried to get help. He was admitted to a mental health facility for several days and seemed to be doing OK once released, they said.
“The family would like to express their deepest sympathy and apologize for the horrible events that transpired and any fear or stress that was inflicted upon the people who witnessed it or were involved,” the statement read.
The family said they hoped the shooting would raise awareness for the impacts of mental illness and proper treatment.