HOLLADAY, Utah (ABC4) – Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has ruled a police shooting at a busy intersection in Holladay was justified.
Numerous witnesses including a school bus full of kids were watching as a Unified Police Officer literally dodged a bullet and returned fire to save his own life and the life of one of his UPD colleagues.
A normal Thursday afternoon suddenly turned violent September 17, at the intersection of 45 South and 23 East, where officers say 49-year-old Eric Pectol slammed his motorcycle into the back of pickup truck. Officials say Pectol was a wanted parole fugitive and suicidal at the time.
Two bystanders started recording on their cellphones as Pectol began fighting with Officer Jason Hudgens who deployed his taser with no effect.
“At that point he transitions to a gun, starts to come up,” Gill says of Officer Hudgens. “He loses control. He falls down. His weapon is displaced out of his hand and then the suspect picks up that very same weapon and points it at him.”
At that moment Officer Charles Saulnier approaches Pectol from a different angle and yells at him to drop the gun, causing Pectol to pivot toward him.
“Saulnier tells us he focuses on the gun. He sees the barrel of the gun. He sees the muzzle flash and he hears a bullet going past him,” Gill said. “He’s saying ‘At that point I fired at him… I fired and yelled because I was concerned he was going to kill Hudgens and certainly he was trying to kill me when he fired that weapon at me.'”
Pectol was struck by four bullets but survived. Officers Saulnier and Hudgens were not injured.
On Friday Gill commended Officer Hudgens for attempting to use non-lethal force first.
“He valued that person, suspect’s life, and he put his life in danger, and at that point on the threshold of a fatal situation,” Gill said. “Here’s a situation when an officer does exactly what they’re trained to do and does it with the kind of professionalism and discipline. I think that needs to be commended and acknowledged.”
Pectol’s case remains under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He told investigators that he was suicidal because six days earlier he was responsible for a Jeep crash that left his girlfriend paralyzed and in a coma.