This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2006, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Posted: 12:25 PM- A federal judge has dismissed a wrongful death suit that claimed a Salt Lake County sheriff's deputy was "wholy unjustified" in shooting an armed Riverton man who was cornered by a police dog and being bitten by the animal.
The use of deadly force by Deputy Alan Morrical was not excessive because the lawman was acting in self-defense, U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart ruled Tuesday in granting Salt Lake County's request to throw out the lawsuit filed by the widow and children of Chad Thomson.
The judge also rejected the argument that the deputies aggravated the situation and contributed to the need to use deadly force by failing to call off the police dog at Thomson's request.
"Officers need not acquiesce to an armed and threatening suspect's demands when they are attempting to apprehend him," Stewart wrote in his ruling.
Lawyers for the Thomson family were not immediately available for comment. The lawsuit, which named the county and Morrical as defendants, had asked for at least $4 million in damages.
The confrontation was sparked by two 911 calls the night of April 18, 2004, reporting that Thomson was suicidal and was threatening family members in his home with a loaded gun.
Court documents say that as deputies were arriving, Thomson, a 32-year-old Utah National Guardsman, left the home. After searching several yards, Morrical released a police dog to help locate the suspect.
As he was hiding from officers, Thomson called his father on a cell phone and said he was in trouble. He also spoke on his phone to a sheriff's lieutenant who was in Thomson's home and said he wanted the searchers to back off, according to court documents.
By then, the dog had cornered Thomson, who began yelling at deputies to call off the dog and threatening to shoot. The officers surrounded him, drew their weapons and twice ordered him to put down his gun.
Morrical says that he saw Thomson place the barrel of the gun into his mouth briefly then take it out and point it at him. The deputy then fired one shot, striking Thomson in the head.
An investigation by the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office found the shooting was legally justified.