This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office will not prosecute a police officer who shot and wounded an alleged car thief, even though the shooting was ruled "unjustified."
Salt Lake City Police Officer Matthew Giles may have violated criminal statutes when he fired his rifle eight times, striking the teen driver in the arm and torso, but District Attorney Sim Gill said the case did not "present a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial."
"We didn't think we had either the quality or quantity of evidence that we could meet that burden," Gill said Tuesday. "I refuse to waste the taxpayers' dollars or waste the integrity of the office by filing charges that we know we may not be able to prove."
Giles' attorney, David Williams, welcomed the announcement.
"We certainly don't agree with the District Attorney's original analysis. We think the D.A. was required, but failed to look at, the shooting through the officer's eyes. That said, we certainly agree with the decision to not press criminal charges," Williams said. "We look forward to Officer Giles ... getting back on the force."
In a July ruling, the D.A. determined Giles' life was not in danger when he fired at the stolen car early on the morning of May 8.
Police had been alerted to a hit-and-run crash involving a stolen car near 500 West and 400 South. The car was found abandoned a short time later at the Sherwood Forest trailer park, near 1600 West and 400 South.
There, the suspected thief stole another car as police officers surrounded the park, according to a District Attorney's Office report. Giles, one of the officers who was helping with containment, grabbed a .223 rifle from his patrol car and took up a spot near the trailer park's exit.
Over the radio, Giles had heard another officer say that the suspected thief had "rammed" his police cruiser. In an interview quoted in the D.A.'s report, Giles said he "felt the rifle had more stopping power" if the driver were to try to hit him as well.
The juvenile thief made two loops around the trailer park before trying to exit. Giles told a sergeant the car was going fast, "directly at me," and was about 20 feet away when he fired two quick shots and then two more when the car did not stop.
Investigators found eight spent rifle casings at the scene. One shot hit the juvenile, whose age Gill declined to release, in the arm and torso.
Another shot hit the hood of a pursuing officer's vehicle and, according to the report, the last shot was likely fired after the driver had passed Giles.
After a lengthy review, the district attorney determined the car was probably at least 60 feet and possibly as many as 100 feet away from Giles when he started shooting or the driver was going much slower than witnesses said.
But while the shooting was deemed unjustified, Gill said his office had to apply a higher standard in deciding whether to file criminal charges against the officer.
"There were certain obstacles, evidentiary and factual obstacles, that created a burden we could not meet," he said. "We had other officers who were there. We had [radio] traffic that was going on. It was a dynamic situation. When you go into a criminal trial, all those other components become part of it. The circle widens more."
Giles remains on paid leave, said Salt Lake City Police Detective Cary Wichmann. "Our process in the investigation is still continuing. We hope to have a determination on that in the near future."
Giles is the ninth officer-involved shooting Gill has ruled on since taking office in January. One other shooting was ruled unjustified and seven were ruled justified by his office.