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Utah man shot by police had been 'fighting hard' to stay off drugs, family says

Published July 5, 2017 9:56 pm

Police tried several times to stop man who had a history of fleeing authorities.
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Family members contacted police early Tuesday morning to report a man whom they said had taken a car without permission and was suicidal, police said Wednesday.

Hours later, he crashed head-on into a police car and was fatally shot by a law enforcement officer.

In social media posts, loved ones remembered Cody Ray McCray, of West Bountiful, as a kind man who struggled with drug use.



They expressed love, support and shock at the death of the 32-year-old on his Facebook page.

McCray was "fighting hard" to stay free from drugs, wrote his step-grandmother, Afton Harris, and was active in the lives of his family members — especially his children.

Last month, McCray was "so proud" to buy flowers to give to his young daughter after her dance recital, Harris wrote. Days before his death, McCray helped put on a surprise birthday party for his son and grandma, she said.

"Cody always showed his love by giving to others," Harris wrote. "... He was a hard-working kid and he did want to stay off all the drugs. But he couldn't do it. Now he's gone, and everyone has got great memories of him."

A friend, Jonathan Barabino, wrote that McCray was "always willing to lend a hand, no questions asked."

"Nothing but prayers to your family, my dude," Barabino wrote.

According to McCray's profile, he graduated from Salt Lake City's West High School in 2003.

In the early hours of Tuesday morning — about 1 or 2 a.m., family members called police to report that McCray had taken his girlfriend or ex-girlfriend's vehicle without permission and was suicidal, said Centerville police Lt. Von Steemblik on Wednesday. There were rumors over the radio that McCray allegedly wanted to commit "suicide by cop," Steemblik said, but it was unclear whether that had been reported by a family member or was speculation.

McCray had a warrant for his arrest in the case of a domestic violence-related assault, Steemblik said. Various police agencies were alerted of the stolen vehicle and spotted McCray in the South Davis area "many, many times" throughout the morning, Steemblik said, but when they tried to stop him, he evaded police but would return to the area "almost like he was trying to provoke something or lure us into suicide by cop."

Police set up roadblocks on Parrish Lane, but McCray drove onto Legacy Parkway heading the wrong direction. After police deployed spikes, McCray continued driving with flat tires. Just before 10:30 a.m., he crashed into a Centerville police car head-on on the highway, and then was rammed by another law enforcement vehicle, sending McCray's vehicle into the median, where it stopped and ignited a grass fire.

The technique officers generally follow when dealing with a wrong-way driver, Steemblik said, is to try and clip them so the suspect vehicle spins off the roadway. Officers try to avoid head-on collisions because they're more dangerous, Steemblik said, but McCray appeared to "purposefully" come at the officer head-on.

After his vehicle stopped, Steemblik said, he was "still trying to get out of there. He was still revving the engine and trying to take off."

At 10:30 a.m. Utah Highway Patrol trooper fired shots at McCray, who had not exited the vehicle, Steemblik said. His injuries were fatal.

"This was tense, very scary and ended up being a very sad situation," said Centerville Police Chief Paul Child on Tuesday.

Police said one of their biggest concerns were the many July 4th parades and celebrations in the area, where families were out and about. Although McCray "had many opportunities to drive away or give up," he continued to return to public areas where members of the public would have been at-risk, Steemblik said.

Centerville police continued an investigation of the incident Wednesday, Steemblik said, collecting surveillance video, body camera footage and dashcam footage.

Investigators had concluded all interviews, except with the UHP trooper who fired the shots, in line with policy to wait two "sleep cycles" for officers involved in fatal shootings, Steemblik said. He said the trooper likely would be interviewed on Thursday.

An autopsy conducted Wednesday morning revealed nothing new, Steemblik added.

There was no indication McCray had fired any rounds at officers, Steemblik said.

McCray had a history of running from authorities. In the two most recent criminal cases filed against him, McCray pleaded guilty to failure to stop at the command of police. One was in October 2015, and the second time was in December 2016. Both times, the police officer noted that McCray fled after an officer tried to arrest him for outstanding warrants. His previous criminal history includes convictions mostly for possession of drugs and domestic violence-related assaults.

Tribune reporter Jessica Miller contributed to this story.

mnoble@sltrib.com

Twitter: @mnoblenews

 

 

 

 

 

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