Provo leaders rattled after latest officer shot

Officer John Oseguera was shot two years after Officer Joseph Shinners was fatally shot while trying to make an arrest.

Provo Police Chief Rich Ferguson was measured Thursday evening as he recounted what he knew about the shootout four hours earlier between his officers and a man they’d been called to check on.

He said the man, reported to have been acting erratically, pulled two guns and opened fire at the officers from his apartment. One Provo officer was hit twice, and officers also shot the suspect. Ferguson said both men would survive.

But throughout the news conference, the chief, a 30-year veteran of the department, gave away his emotions with the short pauses he often took between sentences and some words.

Like when he first said Officer John Oseguera’s name. Or when he described the officer’s injuries. Or, later, when a reporter asked him how he was feeling after the day.

(Photo courtesy of Provo Police Department) Officer John Oseguera was shot and injured Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, while responding to reports of an erratic man, Provo police say. Oseguera was shot at least twice but is stable and expected to survive.

“I’m angry,” he said. Then he stopped briefly before continuing. “I’m proud. And I’m concerned. Those are my emotions right now.”

Provo police on Friday morning didn’t release any updates on the shooting inside the Vista Ridge apartments, near 900 East and 80 South. A department spokesperson, Detective Nick Dupaix, said both Oseguera and the man who shot him are still hospitalized. Their prognoses remain good.

Dupaix said police likely wouldn’t release the name of the man shot by officers until he was booked into jail. It’s unclear when that will be. The man’s shooting was the fifth by police this year in Utah, and the first by Provo police.

Thursday’s violence shook Provo officers, who are still grappling with losing Officer Joseph Shinners in the line of duty in January 2019, said Mayor Michelle Kaufusi.

Shinners, 29, was shot and killed as police from Provo and Orem tried to arrest Matt Frank Hoover, 40, in the parking lot of an Orem Bed Bath and Beyond. Hoover had skipped court hearings in 2018 while on probation for drug and joyriding convictions. Hoover was shot, injured and later charged with Shinners death.

Hoover hasn’t yet entered a plea in the case, court records show.

Like Shinners, Oseguera had only been at the department a few years. Both were married with young children.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Officer Joseph Shinners's patrol car covered with flowers at a candlelight vigil in Provo on Wednesday Jan. 9, 2019. Officer Joseph Shinners was killed Sunday morning while trying to arrest a fugitive.

Kaufusi, like Ferguson, was rattled by the latest shooting. She told reporters between her own pauses that she was proud of Oseguera and the other Provo officers, and that she had all the others officers in the state on her mind.

“My thoughts are with the statewide brotherhood and sisterhood of the police force, knowing they are no doubt in low spirits right now,” she said. “Thank you to our police officers.

“They swiftly contained the scene to make sure there was no danger to the public, and then went back to work keeping our city safe,” she said, stopping before adding, “in the midst of their own grief.”

Kaufusi was right to think the shooting would be on other officers’ minds.

When a police officer anywhere in the state is shot, just about every officer hears about it, either through formal or informal channels. When an officer dies, nearly every officer in the country knows about it.

Ian Adams, executive director of Utah’s Fraternal Order of Police, said those minutes and hours after an officer is confirmed shot is always difficult for other officers and families of officers because no one knows what happened or who it happened to.

On Thursday, Provo police spokesperson Sgt. Nisha King said as much at the shooting scene as reporters peppered her with questions.

She knew a Provo officer had been shot. She didn’t know how badly he was injured — and when a reporter asked if there was any truth to a tip he’d heard that the officer had been hit twice — she was worried.

Dupaix said Friday morning that Oseguera had been sedated following surgery Thursday night, but that he’d heard doctors planned to revive him Friday. He’ll awaken to droves of support in-person and online.

Adams said other officers in Utah would likely have Oseguera on their mind when they returned to their first shifts after the shooting.

On average, an officer is killed in Utah about once a year. In 2020, Ogden officer Nate Lyday was fatally shot by the suspect in a domestic violence call. An Adult Probation and Parol officer was injured. The shooter, 53-year-old John Benedict Coleman, was killed by police that day.

Adams said he doesn’t know how police are feeling as they return to work after the shooting, but suspects there’s probably some pride in it.

“To recognize the danger and still go toward it, is a professional point of pride,” Adams said. “We don’t get to live in the world we want. We have to confront the world we have, and it’s our officers who do it.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Provo police Sgt. Nisha King on scene of where a police officer was shot and injured during an exchange of gunfire with an erratic man in an apartment complex on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.