The Salt Lake City Police Department released body camera footage Tuesday that shows officers shoot and critically injure a man Nov. 8 after a mental health outreach team responding to the man requested police assistance.
George Gulla, 37, who was wounded in the shooting, appeared to be living in the detached garage of a Sugar House home near 1700 South and 900 East, where the shooting took place, according to the footage.
According to probable cause statements in charging documents, two of Gulla’s family members had planned an intervention for him, and they’d requested that a mobile crisis outreach team with Huntsman Mental Health Institute be present as well as police due to Gulla’s “recent aggressive behavior and prior history with guns.”
At about 11:32 a.m., a mobile crisis outreach team with Huntsman Mental Health Institute requested that police assist them as they made contact with Gulla inside.
Two officers responded to the residence to provide standby assistance, police said. Once they arrived at about 11:40 a.m., a member of the crisis outreach team spoke with one of them about Gulla’s recent drug use, prior police interactions and the team’s safety concerns, according to a Tuesday news release from Salt Lake City police.
Inside the garage were two Salt Lake officers, two members of the crisis team, and a family member; in the first video, the faces of everyone except the officers and Gulla are blurred out.
For almost eight minutes, Gulla talked with a family member as he sat on a bed in the corner of the cluttered space. The conversation is silenced in the footage in an effort to “balance the public interest in the officer-involved critical incident with the privacy interests at stake,” the release states.
Audio begins about seven minutes and 52 seconds into the video. About 33 seconds later, Gulla makes a sudden movement toward the end of the bed. In response, a social worker standing at the foot of the bed lunges to get out of the way, tripping over a cardboard box, which makes a popping sound.
That’s when the two officers suddenly open fire, with one officer firing about 15 times toward the bed, the footage shows. According to a police news release, both officers fired multiple rounds, striking Gulla.
After the shots, Gulla falls to the ground. The two officers repeatedly shout at him to put his hands on the bed, but Gulla replies by saying, “Dead, dead, dead,” and, “Can’t move.”
As Gulla moans and asks for help, one officer says, “You see the gun? Where’s the gun?”
The other replies, “I do not see the gun. I see his hands though.”
“Show us your hands and put your hands on the bed,” one officer says, and Gulla replies again, “I can’t move.”
At about 11 minutes into the video, the officers drag Gulla out from his sleeping area. They quickly search him as they continue to look for a gun, then handcuff him. Blood can be seen on Gulla’s upper back.
In the second video, the officers can be heard asking Gulla where the gun is after the shooting. He replies, “It’s not a gun.”
But about 11 minutes and 16 seconds into the video, one officer finds what appears to be a firearm near where Gulla had landed on the floor. It is unclear if the apparent weapon was ever fired.
Later, Gulla told police that the weapon was a pellet gun, according to charging documents, and that he reached for it because “he wasn’t thinking clearly, and felt threatened and cornered.”
Gulla remains at a local hospital, according to police, and is expected to survive. He was charged in 3rd District Court with two felony counts of assault on a peace officer with use of a deadly weapon, and three felony counts of aggravated assault, court records show.
“This incident is reflective of how a situation can turn dangerous with no warning,” Police Chief Mike Brown said in a statement Tuesday. “The collaboration our police department has with our own social workers and mental health professionals as well as the mental health service providers in our community is critical to more fully addressing the needs of Salt Lake City, and I am proud of that work.”
“I look forward to the conclusion of the outside, independent investigation in this matter,” Brown’s statement concluded.
According to the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, when a call comes in to the Utah Crisis Line, which can result in a mobile outreach team deploying, “thorough” risk assessments are conducted over the phone to determine whether it would be safe for a team to respond, Rachel Lucynski, the institute’s director of community crisis services, previously said.
“It is an outlier when law enforcement support and backup is requested, but it does happen,” Lucynski told The Salt Lake Tribune.
This marked the 16th police shooting in Utah so far this year, according to a database maintained by The Salt Lake Tribune.
Correction • Nov. 22, 6 p.m.: The story has been updated to provide more details about the events leading up to and after the police shooting, and correct the location where the man’s apparent weapon was found.