This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A day after a Salt Lake City police officer fatally shot a Sandy man after he failed to pull over to the side of Interstate 80 near Saltair, the victim's family wonders if police mishandled the situation.
Joey Tucker, 30, died Thursday after the police officer feared the man was going to back his vehicle into him.
The officer fired three shots through the truck's side window at Tucker, who died at the scene.
Tucker's father, Perry Tucker of Sandy, said Friday his son may have been in insulin shock throughout the events that ended with his death, including a hit-and-run accident and a low-speed chase involving Salt Lake City police and the Utah Highway Patrol.
The condition may have prevented his son from dealing with police in a logical manner, Perry Tucker said.
"He's not a criminal by any means," Perry Tucker said. "He had a lot of personality, a lot of love for his family and for his little daughter."
Perry Tucker said he asked his son's girlfriend to call 911 after becoming concerned that his son took sleeping pills and hadn't taken medication for diabetes. Joey Tucker was despondent after an argument with his girlfriend and Perry Tucker worried the combination of sleeping pills with the absence of insulin could be lethal.
Joey Tucker often overlooked tending to his insulin when he became upset, and family tried to keep tabs on him to make sure he rebounded, his father said.
"He had his problems over the years," said Perry Tucker, noting his son landed in court on several occasions for drug and alcohol abuse. "We'd seen him in moods [like the one he was in Thursday] before. It's not his fault, its the disease. If he got upset, he wore his feelings on his sleeve."
Perry Tucker said authorities managed to corner his son in a parking lot on Salt Lake City's west side when responding to the call about his son being suicidal. But Joey Tucker drove away from the parking lot toward State Road 201 with police in pursuit.
Tucker said he had a chance to talk to his son in person at the parking lot and begged him to get out of the truck.
"I was worried about his health," Tucker said. "I was just trying to get him to stop. I was telling him things will work out."
Perry Tucker followed his son as he drove from the parking lot and watched as Joey Tucker clipped another vehicle on California Avenue. Perry Tucker said he stayed behind to provide information to the motorist who had called police to report the hit-and-run accident with Joey Tucker.
He tried to follow as his son led police through SR 201 to I-80 west, but authorities asked Perry Tucker to pull over and wait near 8400 West and SR 201. Perry Tucker said police called him while pursuing his son and asked if Joey Tucker had any weapons.
Perry Tucker told them his son was unarmed.
Salt Lake County sheriff's Lt. Don Hutson said UHP joined the chase to stop Joey Tucker as the man drove on State Road 202. Joey Tucker continued driving erratically at about 30 mph and got onto Interstate 80, where police used a pit maneuver, forcing Tucker's vehicle to turn sideways and stop against a highway barrier.
Hutson said Joey Tucker tried to resume driving, moving the truck forward and backward. As the Salt Lake City police officer walked toward Tucker, he observed Tucker fiddling with the steering column, Hutson said.
"[Tucker] looked like he was going to put the vehicle toward the officer and that is when the shots were fired," Hutson said.
A second Salt Lake City police officer and a UHP trooper were at the scene at the time of the shooting.
Hutson said the license plates on Tucker's truck matched those reported in a hit and run at 4100 S. 2200 West in Taylorsville early Thursday.
He said authorities are continuing to investigate the incident, including any medical conditions that might have played a factor in Tucker's behavior.
Joey Tucker's uncle, Steve Wolfley of Sandy, called his nephew's death a tragedy.
"I'm not faulting the police ... but I do think it maybe could have been handled differently. "I think he maybe could have been Tasered," Wolfley said.
He acknowledged his nephew made mistakes in his life, but worked to have a good relationship with his girlfriend and daughter.
"It's such a tragic, tragic ending to a 30-year-old's life," Wolfley said.
Perry Tucker said his son graduated from Skyline High School and had a passion for working in the ornamental iron industry. Joey Tucker loved the outdoors and often camped or went four-wheeling with friends and his toddler.
Funeral arrangements for Joey Tucker are pending. A memorial account has been established in Joey Tucker's daughter's name, Devree Matson Tucker, at Mountain America Credit Union locations.