Farmington police shooting of suspected sovereign citizen Chase Allan ruled justified

Chase Allan, 25, died after he was pulled over by officers.

(Farmington Police Department) In a screenshot taken from a body camera footage presentation, law enforcement officers attempt to remove Chase Allan from his vehicle during a traffic stop on March 1, 2023.

The Davis County attorney has determined that Farmington police officers were justified when they shot and killed a man suspected of being a sovereign citizen earlier this year.

Prosecutors declined to file any charges against the five officers who shot and killed 25-year-old Chase Allan on March 1 because of “persuasive” evidence that there is “no reasonable probability of conviction,” County Attorney Troy Rawlings wrote in a letter dated July 28 but made public this week.

“The officers had a reasonable, articulable and objectively verifiable belief that use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others,” Rawlings wrote.

Allan was pulled over in the parking lot of the Farmington post office on March 1 when an officer noticed a fake license plate on the back of his car — a flag with 13 red and white vertical stripes, along with the words “Utah, American State Citizen,” and “Notice, Private Automobile Not For Hire.” Both the symbol and the text are associated with the sovereign citizen movement, a loose network of right-wing extremists who reject government and law enforcement.

(Farmington Police Department) In a screenshot taken from a body camera footage presentation, law enforcement officers shoot at Chase Allan during a traffic stop on March 1, 2023.

However, according to Rawlings, although Allan was pulled over for the fake license plate — his car was also unregistered — the shooting was not because of it. According to police, it was a routine traffic stop that quickly escalated.

In police body camera footage released a week after the shooting, Allan can be heard telling the officer who pulled him over, “I don’t need registration and I don’t answer questions.” According to police, Allan initially refused to provide any identification to the officer — though he later provided a passport — and “asserted his independence from the laws of the land.”

Allan can also be heard saying he is “not giving [the officer] jurisdiction” over him in the footage, insisting the officer is not allowed to stop him.

The officer who pulled Allan over called for backup, and four more officers arrived. Allan refused to get out of his car when police told him to, stating he is “not required to,” and adding, “If you try and force me, then we’re going to have an issue.”

An officer tells him if he doesn’t get out of the vehicle on his own, they will “break the window and pull you out.”

(Courtesy of the Allan family) Chase Allan.

As the officers pulled open a door to Allan’s car, one began shouting that he had a gun. The officers stepped back and began firing. Allan was struck multiple times. When officers pulled him out of the car and began attempting life-saving procedures, an empty holster could be seen on Allan’s right hip, and a handgun could be seen on the driver’s-side floorboard, according to the police body camera footage.

In his letter explaining the decision not to prosecute the police officers, Rawlings wrote that Allan had been “lawfully stopped”; that Allan “refused to step out of the car”; and that he “attempted to withdraw a loaded firearm on the assembled officers, actually succeeding in getting it out of the holster he was carrying it in.”

He expressed sadness for both Allan’s family and the police officers who shot him. And, because of the “degree of public interest” in the shooting — including “some aggressive input from persons concerned about this case, particularly those wanting the [officers] involved prosecuted,” Rawlings offered several “succinct observations relevant to this matter”:

• The law “does not require” that anyone — including police officers — to “get shot, or even shot at,” before returning fire.

• The officers did not “deploy deadly force” because of the fake license plate “or any other minor violation.” They fired in self-defense because “deadly force was in the process of being engaged against them.”

• Police officers are “not required” to allow anyone to “violate the laws … because the individual does not feel the law is constitutional, or because that person believe the law should not apply to them.”

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Farmington City Police Chief Eric Johnsen discusses the body camera footage of five police officers during a news conference at the police station on Wednesday, Mar. 8, 2023, related to the police shooting death of Chase Allan that occurred on March 1, 2023.

“Such individuals have a mechanism to challenge the law, its application and constitutionality,” Rawlings wrote. “The proper forum for that is the judiciary, not with a gun in a parking lot.”

While Allan’s family has not confirmed that he was a member of the sovereign citizen movement, they did release a statement shortly after he died that said the 25-year-old “was always selflessly helping and protecting others in need,” noting that he had been studying law and was “a patriot doing what he could to defend the people’s freedom and liberty in his community.”

Allan’s personal obituary echoed that statement, adding, “He paid the ultimate price for his freedom with his devastating and tragic death.” Multiple condolence comments referenced him being a “patriot,” and one recounted meeting him at the WeCANact Liberty Conference in Salt Lake City in October 2021 — which featured speakers who shared misinformation about COVID-19, vaccines and the 2020 election, with multiple references to the QAnon conspiracy theory.

In a statement released Wednesday, Farmington police Chief Eric Johnsen said the department is “appreciative” of investigative efforts by agencies in Davis County and the state of Utah regarding the March police shooting.

“This collaborative effort allows for transparency and trust to be paramount in the investigation of such a serious incident,” the statement read. “The thorough and complete investigation allowed for a likewise complete and thorough review of the facts by the Davis County Attorneys’ Office enabling it to draw its legal conclusions.”

Allan’s shooting marked the fourth law enforcement shooting in Utah this year. The most recent, on Sept. 6, was in Layton, and left a man seriously wounded. It marked the 16th law enforcement shooting so far this year.