Family of Provo shooting victim petitions for case to be reopened

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PROVO (ABC4 News) – For the past year, Todd Sorensen has had very little information surrounding the death of his younger brother, Jeremy. On June 3rd, 2019, witnesses told Provo Police that Jeremy was “punching, bashing, and beating ruthlessly” on a woman’s head right outside the home where he lived. A neighbor driving by got out of his car and intervened.

“[Jeremy] did not respond. [The passerby] produced a firearm and gave warnings. [Jeremy] did not respond and [the passerby] discharged the firearm at [Jeremy],” said Sgt. Nisha King with the Provo Police Department during a press conference back in June 2019.

Sorensen said the woman involved in the altercation was Jeremy’s ex-girlfriend who allegedly stole his phone and had been extorting him. Several witnesses wrote in their reports that they heard Jeremy yelling at the woman to return his phone.

Jeremy died from his injuries and six months after the shooting, Utah County Attorney David Leavitt announced that under Utah’s “Use of Force” law, his office would not be filing criminal charges against the shooter.

“It’s not my role nor is it my call nor would it be appropriate to say that the shooter was justified. What I’m saying is the law as it is written and the facts as they have been presented to me, preclude the filing of the criminal case,” said Leavitt.

He went on to say, “Jeremy’s death was an absolute tragedy. My heart goes out to his family. I’ve taken this very seriously from the very beginning. I’ve met with interested parties on all sides many times. I’ve also met with gun rights activities and Black Lives Matter movement leaders.”

RELATED: No charges to be filed in bystander shooting of Provo man

Sorensen filed a GRAMA request and in July, he received copies of all the witness statements along with photographs taken of the woman involved shortly after the June incident.

One witness’ statement stated Jeremy “began punching [the woman] in the head repeatedly over and over […] He tackled her to the ground, bashing in her head […] The male (one who was shot) continued to beat the girl ruthlessly.”

Another witness stated Jeremy “kicked and punched the woman who was on the ground in the fetal position and crying.”

Sorensen consulted with a family friend and registered nurse Dr. Dianne McAdams-Jones, who said there are concerning discrepancies between the witness statements and photographic evidence.

“The description is frightening. But there are no injuries there to match the descriptions so I don’t know what anybody saw that would lead someone, first of all, to get out of a car with a gun,” said Dr. McAdams-Jones. “It didn’t seem that the danger was imminent enough to justified Jeremy’s shooting and death by a civilian claiming that he feared for the life of the woman.”

Both Dr. McAdams-Jones and Sorensen said they believe implicit bias may have played a role in the outcome of the incident, the language used in witness testimonies, and the result of the investigation.

That’s why, Sorensen said, he and some of his siblings decided to file an online petition, asking the Utah County Attorney David Leavitt to reopen his brother’s case. The petition is also addressed to Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. As of Wednesday evening, the petition’s gathered nearly 2,500 signatures.

“My brother was an extremely kind and genuine person. He was always willing to help and serve all those around him,” said Sorensen. “If someone decides to be the judge, jury, and executioner without knowing a situation, they’re taking things way too far. People need to be careful and more conscious when they’re using a firearm to kill somebody.”

Leavitt told ABC4 News he’s briefly reviewed the online petition but said he’s not typically swayed by them. He encourages anyone who has new information or proof of discrepancies to submit them directly to his office. He said he believes more eyes on the case will produce a better result.

“Now, am I saying that I’m going to reopen an investigation? I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is that I’ll take everyone’s concerns and look and see if that warrants reopening it,” said Leavitt. “I’m certainly not above having my work reviewed. I made the best decision that I could at the time. But I’m always open to having people show me where something could have been different.”

Sorensen said he just wants his brother’s case to be heard in court and believes his brother’s life was taken way too soon.

“Everyone deserves a fair chance but we know if other people see the evidence too then they would agree with us as well,” he said.

To view Sorensen’s petition, click here.

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Rosie Nguyen is an award-winning journalist who joined the ABC4 News team as a reporter in January 2018. Her areas of focus include stories about communities of color, minority issues, and social justice.

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