State GOP chair tries to calm ‘cop hater’ rhetoric

SALT LAKE CITY —  Utah State Republican chair James Evans said Salt Lake County chair Chad Bennion regrets using the words “cop hater” to describe Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.

“I think that was an unfortunate term,” Evans said. “I talked with Chad, and I think that if he could he would have used different language.”

But Bennion expressed regrets himself because he wasn’t at the press conference, though he was expected to attend.

“Honestly, he’s trying to get here,” Evans told the assembled reporters as he addressed questions in the conference room of the state GOP Headquarters.

Bennion’s critique of Gill, a Democrat, came after Gill’s decision about police use of force in West Valley City.

In November of 2012, two West Valley City police officers shot and killed 21-year-old Danielle Willard in a drug stop. They said she had been trying to run them down with her Subaru Forester.

On August 8, Gill announced the decision that the shooting lacked justification.

On August 10, Bennion referred to remarks Gill made in which he described witnessing police brutality as a child in India. He said Gill was anti-cop because of the experience.

At the press conference, Evans did not take a stand on the West Valley City case, and he did not directly criticize Bennion.

Evans did say he understood where Gill was coming from.

“I’m a child of the deep south of the ‘60s and ‘70s, and I can stand here today and tell you I will always have ambivalence towards law enforcement because of my upbringing and what I had to go through in the segregated south,” Evans said.

State Democratic Chair Jim Dabakis took a measured approach, though he has been critical of Bennion’s remarks.

“It’s hard to know what you can say and what you can’t say, and the media’s coming at you with machetes, and it’s really easy to say the wrong thing at the wrong time,” Dabakis said.

In a text message to FOX 13 News, Bennion said, “I support James and the prepared comments he made at the press conference today.”