This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A federal lawsuit against Salt Lake City and its police officers involved in the 2014 fatal shooting of an unarmed man 20-year-old Dillon Taylor should be dismissed, according to a motion for summary judgment filed Monday by the city.
The suit filed in U.S. District Court by Taylor's family claims that Officer Bron Cruz used excessive force when he shot and killed Taylor on Aug. 11, 2014, outside a convenience store near 2100 South and State Street. The lawsuit also claims that two back-up officers should have intervened to prevent the shooting.
But attorneys for the city claim the officers' conduct "was objectively reasonable and was justified under the totality of the circumstances."
Further, the city claims the officers are protected by "qualified immunity," which gives governmental officials "breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments," and "protects all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law."
Prosecutors found the shooting to be legally justified because a 911 caller near the store had said Taylor, his brother and his cousin were acting suspiciously and "flashing" a gun; when the officers found the trio at the store, Taylor did not immediately respond to Cruz's orders to stop and show his hands, instead keeping his hands in his pants and walking away.
When Taylor did turn around and pull out his hands, Cruz shot him once in the chest and once in the abdomen. Taylor later was found to be carrying no gun, but he was wearing headphones, apparently attached to a phone in his pocket.
According to the city's summary judgment motion, as the officers arrived at the convenience store, Taylor's brother and cousin immediately raised their hands, but Taylor kept walking.
Both Bron and a second officer were shouting commands at Taylor, who seemed to be "deliberately ignoring" them, the motion states.
The second officer said Taylor appeared to put his hands inside the front waistband of his pants, then looked at him and said, "What are you going to do, mother–f, shoot me ... come on, shoot me," according to the motion.
Soon after, Taylor turned to face Cruz and began walking backward with both hands inside his waistband and moving them "in a digging motion," the motion states.
When Cruz continued to shout, "Get your hands out," Taylor said something that sounded on the officer's body cam video like, "Nah fool," the motion states.
Taylor then suddenly raised his left hand from inside his waistband, lifting his shirt and exposing his lower torso, while simultaneously bringing his right hand out of his waistband.
Believing Taylor was reaching for a gun and intending to fire on the officers, Cruz "acted in self-defense by firing two shots," the motion states.
The second officer later stated that if Cruz had not fired his weapon, he likely would have shot at Taylor himself, the motion states.
In April, Dillon Taylor's brother and cousin settled their portion of the lawsuit. Salt Lake City, South Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County jointly paid a total of $85,000 to the brother, Jerrail Taylor, and the cousin, Adam Thayne who claimed they were unlawfully detained by police after the shooting. The two were handcuffed and detained for more than five hours, even though neither was suspected of a crime, the lawsuit claims.