Salt Lake County prosecutors determined four officers were justified in using deadly force when they fired at a suicidal man, ultimately killing him, during a SWAT standoff last year in Herriman.
District Attorney Sim Gill wrote in a letter released Friday that while none of the firing officers spoke with investigators, evidence shows they likely shot at 38-year-old Alma Worthington because they reasonably believed it was necessary to prevent death or serious injury, in accordance with Utah law.
Officers with the Herriman Police Department responded to Worthington’s home in a densely populated area near 13000 South and 5100 West on Nov. 20, 2022, after Worthington called 911 to report he was intoxicated and suicidal and wanted officers to keep family members away from his house, according to the letter Gill wrote, which explained prosecutors’ findings.
Herriman police called in South Valley SWAT, comprised of officers from the Herriman, Riverton and South Jordan police departments, after trying to negotiate with Worthington for several hours.
During the hourslong standoff, police heard Worthington fire gunshots inside his home and break things, the letter said. He indicated he had an AR-15 rifle, pistols, armor piercing rounds, multiple magazines and 200,000 rounds of ammo in his home and would shoot anyone who came through the door.
Toward the end of the standoff, around 9 p.m., Worthington fired at the armored vehicles stationed outside his home. He had complained that their spotlights were bothering him, and he wanted to shoot out the lights, according to the letter. An officer in the vehicle’s turret said he was struck by a bullet fragment.
As Worthington fired out of the front window, Herriman officer Jared Goulding returned fire with two rounds from his sniper rifle.
Soon after, officers deployed tear gas in the home, and Worthington fired at the vehicles again. He then exited the house through a back upstairs door, carrying a rifle and wearing a tactical vest.
Riverton detective Troy Morgan fired at Worthington from one of the armored vehicles as he descended the stairs, at the same time as Herriman Sgt. Marcus Beckstead and South Jordan officer Brett Talbot fired their sniper rifles, the letter said. Worthington fell to the ground around the base of the staircase and died.
His rifle was loaded with one round in the chamber and 27 in the magazine, with an additional 14 loaded magazines — a total of 420 additional rounds — in his tactical vest.
While investigators didn’t speak with the shooting officers, they did interview other responding officers.
Officer Felsing, who was positioned as a sniper during the standoff, told investigators that he heard Worthington shooting and reloading his guns, and began to realize Worthington was “not messing around” and intended to kill officers or be killed.
Felsing remembered thinking, “This guy is 100% convinced that this is how it’s going to down. ... This guy is like the most serious I-will-commit-suicide-by-cop kind of guy ever.”
After the shooting, Herriman police released a statement saying, “While this is not the outcome we had hoped for, Mr. Worthington was adamant throughout our encounter with him that this was the outcome he had decided upon.”
“We have and will continue to make every effort to avoid armed confrontation with suicidal subjects and provide them resources and options for a path forward,” the statement read, “but we cannot allow that person to place the lives of other citizens in danger through their actions.”
No officers were hit by Worthington’s gunfire, but investigators later discovered he’d hit parked cars and fired into other homes.
The police release encouraged those struggling with mental health to ask for help by calling 988 or using the SafeUT app.
The law enforcement shooting marked the 17th in Utah last year, according to a Salt Lake Tribune database.