SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Salt Lake City Police Department has had a number of fatal officer-involved shootings, including two last summer. But now, officers have a less-lethal option. ABC4 News had the opportunity to test it out Monday.
This option is a modified shotgun firing non-lethal “super sock” rounds. Basically, it is a small bag of pellets that stings and bruises but doesn’t kill. SLCPD officers demonstrated the ammunition on paper targets and said they could be used to stop somebody from harming others or themselves.
“In a single suicidal setting subject, someone armed with a weapon, we’re going to try to use these, not putting people at additional risk,” says Sgt. Keith Horrocks. “Let’s say we have suicidal male who has a knife…The closer the officers get, the more dangerous that situation becomes. This is a fantastic tool to use in that scenario…Be able to engage them in a less lethal manner and bring a peaceful resolution to that situation.”
On May 23, 2020, SLCPD officers shot and killed 22-year-old Bernardo Palacios-Carbajal, a shooting that was ruled justified because he stopped to retrieve a gun he had dropped. The less-lethal rounds probably would not have been used in that situation, but they may have been an option on July 25 when Andrew Preece was fatally wounded by two officers while holding a man at knifepoint outside of a downtown Salt Lake City grocery store.
The officers would not comment specifically on that situation, but they do say the super sock rounds can disarm a person from five to 20 yards away.
“If we’re hitting them in the arm, the goal is to get them to drop that knife,” says Lt. Alma Sweeny of the SLCPD Training Unit. “There is some pain associated with it that is preventing them from picking that knife up again or continuing to do the action they were doing.”
The department trains officers to avoid the groin, head, and neck and say it sometimes takes more than one shot to get the job done.
“We’re training officers that it’s often multiple shots that you have to fire with these,” says Sweeny. “Sometimes we’re looking at up to four shots that we have to fire, which is another advantage of the shotgun platform because we can carry multiple rounds with those.”
The SLCPD currently has 85 of the non-lethal shotguns in use with a goal of 200. So far, they say they’ve only used them in two incidents.