Justified: Murray City police officer who wounded woman cleared of wrongdoing

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MURRAY (ABC4 News) – A Murray City police officer who shot a 58-year-old woman inside her own apartment back in March has been cleared of any wrongdoing. On Friday, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill showed the incident’s body camera video and announced that the shooting was justified.

It was a Thursday afternoon when a social worker and a Murray PD officer were checking on Rhonda St. Onge at the Stillwater Apartments at 744 East Creekwood Lane. After the social worker knocked on her door, a bullet came from inside her unit, flying through the door and over the social worker’s head. The officer called for backup, and soon four officers with guns drawn and ballistic shields were positioned outside of apartment 5Q.

“Rhonda, we’re here to help you out,” an officer is heard saying on the video. “I understand you’re having a bad day. Let us come in a help you out, OK?”

Ms. St. Onge did not open the door, and finally, officers got a key. When they opened the door, officers say that Ms. St. Onge was in a shooting stance with a pistol aimed at them. Det. Brad Rowe, standing off-camera to the left of the bodycam officer, fired one shot with his rifle. She was wounded in the abdomen but survived. Officers found a pistol by her side. No one else was injured. 

“At that moment, she presents a firearm pointed directly at the officers,” District Attorney Gill said at a news conference. “When the officers were presented with a gun pointed in their direction, they are within the law to return that fire.”

ABC4 News asked Murray Police Chief Craig Burnett if the officers could have taken less aggressive action, like using tear gas or a police negotiator instead of entering through the front door.

“I agree with what my officers did,” Chief Burnett answered. “It’s always easy to sit back and say ‘Could you have done something a little differently?’ I’m going to stand by what they did and say ‘No.’ We don’t know what happened in there. We don’t know. She’s already taken one shot out the door. Is she going to take multiple shots? That time isn’t always there to try other things…It was unfortunate that this was the situation it turned into. She’s alive, and hopefully, she can get the help she needs, but nobody else was hurt, and I think it was as good an outcome as it could have been given the situation.”

Ten days later,  Ms. St. Onge was charged with four counts of assault on a police officer plus aggravated assault and felony discharge of a firearm. Those charges are still pending while the court determines whether she’s mentally competent to stand trial.

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