Two officers deemed justified in Utah shooting that killed a fugitive and a police dog

(Photo courtesy of Herriman Police Department) K9 officer Hondo was shot and killed in the line of duty on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill ruled Friday that two officers were justified in shooting and killing a man who was wanted in connection with a North Ogden homicide.

But Gill noted in his findings that Herriman Police Sgt. Ben Ricks and Homeland Security Officer Jared Holland both refused to be interviewed by investigators about why they felt they needed to use deadly force on Feb. 13 when they shot and killed Brian Filion. A Herriman police dog named Hondo was also shot and killed during the encounter.

There was also no body camera footage of the incident, Gill wrote in his findings, because it is the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team (VFAST) policy to not wear cameras during an operation.

The VFAST team had tracked Filion after he was labeled a fugitive for failing to report to his parole officer days before he was killed, and his parole officer learned that he may have been involved in the shooting death of a man named Dalton Wood.

A fugitive arrest warrant was issued Feb. 10, according to Gill’s findings.

Three days later, the VFAST team tracked Filion through Weber and Davis counties and into Salt Lake City.

As Filion was crossing 300 South with a woman, the officers yelled for Filion to put his hands up and get on the ground, according to the district attorney’s office. Filion instead starting running away, and Hondo’s handler released the dog to chase him.

The K9 caught Filion and took him to the ground in the alley near an apartment complex, according to the district attorney’s office.

“Mr. Filion was on his back,” the report reads. “As he raised up, he produced a firearm while Hondo was attached to Mr. Filion’s left arm.”

As other officers yelled that Filion had a gun, both Ricks and Holland opened fire.

Ricks fired twice, both bullets striking Filion in the head.

Holland shot four times. One of his bullets struck Filion in the hip, and Gill said bullet fragments most likely from Holland’s gun struck and killed Hondo.

One officer told investigators that he saw Filion shoot and kill Hondo, but Gill said the physical evidence indicates that the suspect never fired his gun.

Even though the two officers who fired their weapons would not be interviewed and there was no video of the shooting, Gill concluded that a jury would likely conclude that the officers “reasonably believed” they needed to fire their weapons to prevent death of serious bodily injury to themselves or others.

Police officers, like anyone else, have a constitutional right against self-incrimination, and can’t be forced to participate in an investigation into their use of force.

Gill noted in his findings that Utah legislators might consider passing a law requiring police officers to wear body cameras, whether they are working for the state or in a federal capacity, noting that the evidence they could analyze was limited because there was no footage and the officers didn’t participate in the investigation.

A day after the ruling, the U.S. Marshals sent out a news release criticizing Gill’s statements about the shooting, particularly his concerns that federal task force members did not wear body cameras.

The release said that Gill should have known that body-worn cameras are against Department of Justice policy.

“Utilizing the findings of an OIS to push an agenda knowing officers were following DOJ policy is unfortunate,” the release said.

Reporter Paighten Harkins contributed to this article.