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DA rules use of deadly force at Pioneer Park as 'justified'

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Officers from the Salt Lake City Police Department responded to reports of a stabbing at Pioneer Park on June 10, 2021. Officers fatally shot Rezek Yaqub Yahya, 39, after body cam video showed he ran at police with a knife. (KUTV)

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has ruled the June fatal shooting of Rezek Yaqub Yahya by officers from the Salt Lake Police Department as justified. His office has declined to press charges against the officer.

The shooting happened the morning of June 10 in Pioneer Park at 300 W. 300 South

Officers were called to the scene just after 8:30 a.m. after reports that a man stabbed a woman at the park. The man was later identified as 39-year-old Yahya.

“Based on taking all the evidence that we had from the video, as well as the statements from the officers and all the witnesses, our conclusion was that it was not unreasonable for the officers in this situation to use deadly force," Gill said.

Witnesses said the woman asked for help from nearby construction workers.

Police and emergency medical personnel responded to the scene to treat the woman’s injuries. Officials said she was bleeding heavily from injuries to her arm and abdomen.

The body worn video showed an officer pull up to the scene as one of the construction workers approached and pointed out Yahya as the man he said the woman identified as the suspect.

In the video, the officer was joined by another and they walked towards Yahya

“Hey, he’s got the knife in his hand,” one officer told the other.

He then directed the suspect to put the knife down three separate times.

When Yahya began walking toward the officers, one was heard on video calling for the use of a stun gun.

Immediately afterwards, Yahya ran at one of the officers.

The officer ordered Yahya again to put the knife down, and stop. When he failed to comply, the officer discharged his service weapon, hitting Yahya.

The other officer appeared to be running backwards from Yahya and fell, just as the suspect also fell to the ground. It was about four to five seconds from the time he started running at officers and the first shot was fired.

Yahya was seen moving on the ground, and officers again ordered him to put the knife down.

“Put the knife down,” one said. “Let it go, man. C’mon, I want to help you. We want to help you. Put the knife down.”

After Yahya complied, the officer holstered his weapon and approached.

Our conclusion was that it was not unreasonable for the officers in this situation to use deadly force.

“C’mon man, we want to help. Where are you hit,” he asked.

Medical crews were on the scene and attending to the man within two minutes of the shots fired. Yahya was pronounced dead.

A protocol team from the West Valley City Police Department led the task force looking into the incident. The two officers on scene that, Nathan Harward and Darren Austill, both fired shots.

Only one of their body cameras was recording at the time, but video showed them being pointed to a suspect while the stabbing victim was being treated by EMS.

In addition to the video, Gill said the protocol team used statements from multiple witness to come to their final decision.

“(The witnesses') overall statements were consistent with what the video camera showed, as well as the subsequent interview we did with the officers, that the suspect got up, and then ran at them at full bore, and the officers lives were in danger," Gill said. "They tried to backup, and had no choice but to fire their weapon."

Gill said his office was still trying to find family of Yahya. They said he had a ticket in his pocket for a flight out of the country he appeared to have missed a few days prior to the shooting.