Police in West Valley City, Utah, have released body camera footage showing the fatal shooting of Elijah Smith.
The police report says the incident began when West Valley City police officers were dispatched to deal with a cell phone theft at a store in the area. Smith had snatched multiple phones and fled the scene.
Minutes later, an officer spotted a man matching Smith’s description outside a gas station. The officer approached Smith, but he immediately started running. Several officers gave chase.
Smith managed to evade the cops by hopping a fence into the backyard of a home. He entered the home’s garage, where he came face-to-face with the homeowner and his adult son. The two told Smith to leave, and he took off. An officer later recovered two cell phones at that home.
Officers then spotted Smith entering another home nearby. Inside the home were three children aged 13, 10 and 8. The children were alone. The 13-year-old later told the cops he was “scared” when Smith “barged in” and entered the home “aggressively.”
Police arrived at the second home. The 13-year-old answered the door and told officers a stranger was inside the garage.
“This is a critical point,” the police report states. “What was a theft investigation has now quickly changed to a home invasion with young children inside the home.”
Elijah Smith Shooting
The officers made their way to the garage, where they observed Smith hiding in a corner. Smith was ordered to come out with his hands up multiple times.
“From the time officers opened the garage door to the time shots were fired was approximately 24 seconds,” Chief Colleen Jacobs of the West Valley City Police Department said at a news conference. “They told him 15 times, in those 24 seconds, to show them his hands and to come out from hiding.”
Smith eventually came out, but he didn’t put his hands up. The body cam footage shows him with his hands down by his side. He is then seen moving to the rear of a car in the garage. At this point, he puts his right hand into his pocket despite repeatedly being told to put both of his hands up.
Smith keeps walking along the side of the car with his hand in his pocket. Furthermore, the officers continue ordering Smith to show both of his hands.
“Smith pulls his right arm in a slight upward direction, then pulls his arm up in a sharper, draw-stroke motion,” the police report says.
That’s when two officers opened fire. One officer fired three rounds. One of the rounds hit Smith and killed him. The other officer used his Taser, which didn’t hit Smith.
Police later said they found a “modified” screwdriver next to Smith on the floor. It is believed the screwdriver was in Smith’s pocket, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
Smith’s shooting has sparked protests from local activists.
“Once again, it’s clear that police will see whatever they want to see in order to justify violence against people of color,” Dave Newlin of Utahns Against Police Brutality told the Tribune. “I see a terrified young man with his hand in the air, desperately and clearly trying to put up his other hand exactly as police have demanded. I see someone who is trapped after running for his life, who knows that at any moment, the violent racism of Utah’s police could take his life, as indeed it does.”
Jacobs maintains that her officers “followed protocol” with regard to the incident, stating that Smith lost his life because of his failure to comply with her officers’ commands, not because of his race.
Smith’s rap sheet includes misdemeanor convictions for intoxication, criminal trespass, false information to a peace officer and possession of alcohol by a minor, the Tribune said.
The officer who fatally shot Smith has been placed on administrative leave pending the results of the investigation. In addition, the other two officers present in the garage are on full duty.