A would-be shoplifter, stopped by store employees and bystanders. A struggle ensues outside and one man ends up dead. Now, police body cam video, reveals what officers found when they arrived on the scene of what would soon be a complex investigation.
Was a crime committed in the shopping center parking lot that afternopon? If so, who is the criminal?These are the questions that hang over an investigation of the events of May 2, 2019.
The video shows officers arriving at the scene, 612 East 400 South, in downtown Salt Lake City. They found at least four people standing over a man who was lying face-down on the pavement of the parking lot.
Police handcuffed the man, but say they noticed he was experiencing “medical difficulties.” A recording of a 911 call from a witness on-scene, also released Friday, indicates dispatchers were told the man was immobile, seemingly unconscious and bleeding.
By the next day, 30-year-old Mischa Ryan Cox, was pronounced dead, and suddenly, what began as a shoplifting incident, became much more. An investigation was launched by two police agencies, the state medical examiner and the county attorney.
ABC4.com contacted a legal expert for answers to crucial questions that have been raised.
The first – do citizens have the right to use force against other citizens they believe have committed a crime? Former Salt Lake County attorney, B. Kent Morgan, says yes, but only if it’s a “reasonable use of force.”
“If someone set out to cause someone’s death because they were stealing something,” explains Morgan, “that’s not reasonable.”
He went onto elaborate on whether someone must be held accountable or responsible for the man’s death.
“Whenever there’s a death, even if it’s accidental,” says Morgan, “those cases often go to the district attorney to make a determination of whether charges are filed.”
Morgan pointed out the parallel investigation underway; the one that may determine responsibility on the part of police.
“The medical examiner is working to determine the exact cause of death,” he says. “That may tell whether police might have contributed to the man’s death.”