When state agents shot a man on Thursday in Salt Lake City, it marked the 30th shooting this year and tied a nearly 2-year-old record for the most police shootings in Utah in recent memory.
The shooting happened after agents with the State Bureau of Investigation doing “covert work” spotted someone in a silver Mercedes van “participate in some alleged narcotic activity,” Department of Public Safety spokesman Lt. Nick Street said.
The agents tried to pull the person over at about 10:30 a.m., but the man drove off and agents didn’t give chase, Street said. The agents soon learned the driver had an active arrest warrant.
They spotted the van again about 3 p.m. and tailed it to Rose Park, where police shot at the driver after “some type of exchange occurred” on Morton Drive, near 700 North. According to a probable cause statement, the man “drove his vehicle at two” of the agents, who fired their guns at the the Mercedes.
Street said it appears the man — later identified as Romeo Jimmy Lopez Jr., 27 — was “grazed” by agents’ gunfire.
After the shooting, Lopez pulled out onto 700 North, near the I-215 on-ramp, and crashed into a white FedEx truck. That’s when police arrested him. Lopez was taken to a hospital and has since been released and jailed for investigation of charges that include assault on police officers and failure to respond to officers’ commands.
The Mercedes van sat parked in the middle of the street Thursday night, cordoned off with yellow police tape, its driver’s side peppered with bullet holes.
West Valley City is investigating the shooting, as per a valley-wide protocol that mandates an outside agency investigate all police shootings.
There was only one month this year — November — that went by without an officer somewhere in the state shooting at someone.
The last time police in Utah shot at 30 people in one year, the Attorney General’s Office announced a study to examine why because if they didn’t, the office said, “we won’t know how to respond if the trend starts to repeat in future years.”
However, because of issues gathering reports and other records on the shootings, the office never completed the study.
While 2020 ties the record for the most police shootings in more than a decade, it is the second deadliest with 17 fatal shootings. In 2018, police shot and killed 19 people, according a Salt Lake Tribune database of police shootings.
In 2019, police shot at people 16 times, killing 12.
Salt Lake Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this story.