Family of Kanosh man shot by deputy threaten lawsuit
Family will "seek justice," may sue sheriff, who says deputy did nothing wrong.
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Kanosh • Gari Lafferty watched the ambulance parked along Reservation Road. When dawn broke and the vehicle turned and headed west, Lafferty knew her nephew was dead.

That knowledge has seemingly been the only certainty for the family of Corey Kanosh since the 35-year-old man was shot and killed by a Millard County sheriff's deputy after a high-speed chase last week.

About 45 tribal members gathered Tuesday in their community center, demanding answers from Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker and threatening a wrongful death lawsuit.

"We are going to seek justice in this case," said the slain man's older brother, Jerald Kanosh. "A warning to Sheriff Dekker and your deputies: We are going to come for you."

Corey Kanosh died on Oct. 15 after being shot by a deputy who claimed he feared for his life during a struggle with Kanosh in the foothills east of the reservation. He was shot in the left arm and left torso, according to a death certificate.

On Tuesday, as Kanosh's family made allegations of excessive force and a botched investigation — even claiming Kanosh's body was moved after he was killed —¬†Dekker promised a renewed effort at communication with the bereft family, while standing by his deputy's actions.

"It's a tough situation for everybody," the sheriff said. "Nobody wins. We've all lost, but we live with one another and we should still be able to do that. All of us want the facts."

According to police officials, the deputy had attempted to pull over Kanosh after his mother called 911 to report that her son was intoxicated and had taken her car from the Kanosh Paiute Indian Reservation. But Kanosh and another man in the car, 21-year-old Dana Harnes of Millard County, sped away and a pursuit began both on paved and unpaved roads, with the suspect vehicle eventually stopping in the foothills east of the town of Kanosh.

Kanosh and Harnes began to run, according to the deputy, who used a Taser to shock Kanosh. A fight ensued when the deputy attempted to take him into custody.

A preliminary investigation by the Utah County Sheriff's Office — which was asked to look at the case as an independent agency — appeared to support the deputy's account.

"There was a struggle, the deputy felt like his life was in danger and that's why he said he shot the suspect," Utah County Sheriff's Lt. Shawn Chipman said on Oct. 17. "It appears he [the deputy] was going to the ground with the suspect on top of him when he fired."

Kanosh's family and their private investigator, Christian Warmsley, said they believe the man was shot while he was sitting in the car, and that his body was later moved.

Dekker said those claims are untrue.

"All I can say to that is physical evidence is going to prove that theory way wrong," he said.

If nothing else, Kanosh's family believes the deputy should have ended his pursuit when Harnes and Kanosh turned up a bumpy dirt road away from the reservation.

"The way he went was uncalled for," said Kanosh's grandmother, Mildred Pikyavit. "To me it feels like they shot him like he was a dog. It's unreal. I keep thinking he's going to come back, but he's never going to be with us."

The grandmother wore dangling purple earrings and a purple bandana hung from her pocket. It was the color Kanosh wore when he danced at powwows, the woman said. Friends and family wore purple and white shirts that read "Let Justice Be Done Though the Heavens Fall."

On Tuesdays, Corey Kanosh would usually tattoo friends in the trailer home where he lived. The man's mother pulled up a pant leg to reveal a portrait Kanosh had done of his grandfather, wearing full headdress, on her calf.

"He loved his family," she said.

Marguerite Teller said her nephew took care of her, planting flowers and weeding, taking her to Salt Lake for medical appointments, and fetching her local newspaper on Wednesdays.

"He was a hard worker," said the woman everyone calls Aunt Marge. "He would do the work in half the time or less. He was just a mover."

Teller said she could tell Corey Kanosh had been drinking when he brought her some cheese she had asked for that afternoon.

As the night went on, Kanosh got into his sister's car until he was coaxed out by his mother, who told him he could take her Pontiac. "I said, 'Go ahead. See how far you can get,'" recalled Marlene Pikyavit, the man's mother.

Then she called police.

"I wanted them to take him to jail and let him be there a couple of days to think," the woman said. "It didn't need to go as far as it did."

In June 1999, Kanosh was arrested in Millard County two weeks after his escape with another inmate from the nearby Sevier County Jail. In October 1999, he was at Utah State Prison but was paroled just under six years later. He was back in prison in April 2009, and released again in March 2010.

Kanosh's sentences included convictions for felony burglary, attempted burglary, attempted child sexual abuse and unlawful weapons possession, as well as misdemeanor convictions for drug and unlawful alcohol possession.

The man's mother said she called police because she had grown tired of his drinking.

Teller was watching a sitcom about 10 p.m. when she heard the cars speed down Reservation Road, toward the dead end. The vehicles made U-turns and headed south again. The Pontiac made a quick left, heading east up a bumpy dirt road, past the cemetery where Corey Kanosh would eventually be buried.

The deputy should have stopped there, family members said.

"It just shows excessive force in bold black letters all the way across," Gari Lafferty said. "There's no denying that."

"It's what you call a living nightmare," the woman added.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk