Officers justified in three Utah police shootings, Salt Lake County D.A. finds

No one died in the shootings, and the men who were fired at now face criminal charges.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill speaks during a news conference Friday, March 18, 2022. Gill announced Friday that four police officers were justified in firing their weapons in three separate police shootings last year.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced Friday that four police officers were justified in firing their weapons in three separate shootings last year.

No one was killed in the shootings, and in each, the men whom police shot at are now facing felony charges stemming from the encounters.

Because the men’s criminal cases are pending, Gill did not release body camera footage or other evidence from the shootings on Friday. But he announced that he had enough evidence to show that the officers reasonably believed deadly force was necessary.

“One thing that was common for all three shootings is these are individuals whom criminal charges have been filed [against],” Gill said Friday. “Our findings have been completed and we have an obligation to communicate that to the community.”

The district attorney said not releasing body camera footage protects the due process rights for those who were shot at and now face criminal charges. He said he’ll release body camera footage and other evidence once the criminal cases are resolved.

These are the shootings that Gill ruled on:

A suicidal person call in West Valley City

Gill found West Valley City officer Nathan Dugan was justified in firing his weapon on Aug. 7, 2021, while responding to a suicide threat at a home.

Charging records allege Shilo Jason McCleery’s son called police because his parents were having “marital problems” and McCleery had become suicidal. The son was in the basement, according to Gill, when he heard a gunshot.

Two officers who were first to arrive on the scene also heard that gunshot, according to Gill, and called out “shots fired” on the police radio to other arriving officers.

When Dugan arrived, he “positioned himself with a rifle” behind a car, according to Gill’s findings, then moved behind another vehicle and spotted a man, later identified as McCleery, on the ground in a garage.

“Officer Dugan began yelling commands to put his hands up and not move, but Mr. McCleery did not comply,” the ruling reads. “Officer Dugan continued to give commands as officers began to approach.”

When officers reached the driveway, they saw McCleery lying on the ground, holding a handgun pointed “at his temple and in their direction,” according to Gill.

Dugan, who was still behind the car across the street, continued to yell commands for McCleery to not move — then fired a single shot.

”[Officer Dugan] then exclaimed, ‘He moved the gun! He moved the gun!’” Gill wrote. “The officers saw that the gun was then outside of the garage, approached and took Mr. McCleery into custody.”

McCleery was not hit by the bullet. He now faces a third-degree felony charge of discharging a firearm for allegedly firing his gun towards the ceiling of his garage when officers arrived.

A no-knock warrant in Sandy

Two Sandy police sergeants, Greg Moffitt and Curtis Robertson, were found justified in firing their weapons while conducting a no-knock drug warrant with a SWAT team on Sept. 8, 2021.

The warrant targeted an apartment leased by Sean De Jesus Darragh, according to Gill. When the officers breached the door and entered, Darragh allegedly “drew a handgun from a holster on his hip and began running” toward Moffitt and Robertson.

Moffitt had a protective shield and a 9 mm handgun, and Robertson had a .223-caliber rifle and was assigned to be Moffitt’s “shield cover.”

Moffitt and Darragh exchanged gunfire, according to charging documents, before the sergeant fell on the ground after being hit by a bullet. Once Robertson saw Darragh come into his view, he also fired shots towards the man.

Darragh was struck by police bullets, and transported to a hospital. He survived his injuries and now faces several drug and weapon-related felonies, along with a first-degree felony charge for injuring a police officer.

A domestic violence call in West Jordan

West Jordan Sgt. Nick Dailami was found justified for shooting and injuring a man on Oct. 31, 2021, during a domestic violence call.

Gill wrote that West Jordan officers had been called to a home on a “possible domestic violence incident.” A woman later told investigators that she was in her bedroom when she saw Pedro Cortes-Villaloa, who she lived with, walk past the room and heard what sounded like a gun being cocked.

The woman left the home, according to charging documents, and as she was leaving, she heard what she thought was Cortes-Villaloa cocking a gun again.

When police arrived, they saw Cortes-Villaloa outside the residence, attempting to get into his truck, according to Gill. An officer tried to pull the man from the truck to keep him from going inside. As the officer pulled at him, another officer saw Cortes-Villaloa reach inside the truck and grab a gun, Gill said.

“Mr. Cortes-Villaloa cycled the weapon’s slide and began raising it,” Gill wrote, “so [an] officer grabbed the barrel, pulled it downward and yelled ‘Gun! Gun! Gun!’”

Dailami, who was standing behind the officer, yelled for the officer to move — then fired a single shot that pierced Cortes-Villaloa’s left cheek and exited the right side of his face.

The man survived his injuries, and now faces a second-degree felony charge of possession of a firearm by a restricted person.