MIDVALE, Utah (ABC4) – Three officers were justified in their use of deadly force in a Midvale shootout in September 2020, according to the county district attorney.
On September 18, Unified Police reported seeing a suspect believed to be involved in a string of robberies and drive-by shootings. The man had eluded the police for weeks and got away in a pursuit the previous day.
Officers spiked the car in order to stop it, but the suspect reportedly fled them again, running over sidewalks, through construction zones, and into oncoming traffic before coming to a stop in a Midvale intersection.
Multiple people got out of the vehicle, including 22-year-old Matthew Knowlden, who reportedly produced a handgun and aimed at where other officers were arriving and where other community members were believed to be at risk.
One Unified Police Officer, Jeffery Nelson, reportedly fired shots at Knowlden because he feared for the lives of others. Another officer, Alan Belcher of West Valley City Police, also fired shots at the suspect, fearing for his life and the lives of others. After retreating behind a vehicle, Detective Chelsea Winslow reportedly dropped her Taser, switched to her handgun, and fired rounds as well.
In total, investigators say 31 shots were fired – 17 from Nelson and 7 each from Winslow and Belcher.
Knowlden, who was not the man police were initially searching for, died following the incident after being transported to a local hospital. A medical examiner determined the man had sustained eight gunshot wounds from five bullets.
During a Friday press conference, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced that the suspect never actually fired off a round – his firearm was found to have the safety on. Other officers say Knowlden was pointing a firearm at officers and making motions similar to someone squeezing a trigger to fire the weapon.
Based on video evidence and other information gathered during the investigation into the incident, Gill says they determined it was reasonable for each officer to believe that using deadly force was necessary.