MURRAY, Utah (ABC4) – Tuesday’s officer-involved shootout in Murray left a suspect dead and a police officer recovering from a gunshot wound to the leg.
According to the Murray Police Department, officers encountered 33-year-old Willie T. Salazar outside an apartment Tuesday afternoon after his mother told a dispatcher he threatened to kill her.
“There was an exchange of gunfire,” Murray Police Department Public Information Officer Kristin Reardon told reporters. “The suspect is deceased and the officer went to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”
Salazar, who had been in and out of prison since 2007, becomes the fifth man shot and killed by police in Utah this year, following deadly incidents in Ogden and Kearns in February, outside the Salt Lake County Jail in April, and in Pioneer Park on June 10. This follows 18 suspect fatalities last year, 11 in 2019, and a record 19 in 2018.
The American Civil Liberties Union started keeping track of the shootings because nobody else was doing so.
“Everyone deserves their day in court,” ACLU of Utah Strategic Communications Manager Jason Stevenson told ABC4 News. “These incidents, these deaths are a tragedy. We need to stop them from happening so that people have the right to go to court if they’re accused of something and not have them be killed before they can even make it to a trial…Law enforcement has the upper hand in all these situations, they can choose to withdraw. They can choose to de-escalate. They can choose to move away, and if they make those decisions, more often than not, people are going to end up surviving and not dying.”
Stevenson points out that change is underway. The Utah Legislature passed three police reform bills this past session. As a result, Utah now has a law requiring law enforcement agencies to keep track of and report use of force incidents and a law prohibiting the use of deadly force against a person who is threatening self-harm.
“We do need reform not only in police practices and training and equipment,” Stevenson said. “But also in the investigative side and make sure that law enforcement should be held accountable when they do make mistakes and cross the line because if there’s no accountability, there won’t be any change in the system.”