Family of man shot, killed by West Valley City Police believes use of force was excessive

WEST VALLEY CITY – The family of a 20-year-old who was shot and killed by West Valley City police Sunday believes the use of force was excessive.

Police say Elijah Smith was the suspect in a theft at a cell phone store. He ran from officers and entered a home occupied by three children. He was shot inside that home.

“Why did they have to do what they did,” asked Smith’s mother, Roshawna Carter. “Why did they have to kill him?”

Smith’s family attended a rally outside city hall in West Valley City Saturday to protest the officers’ use of deadly force.

Many spoke about their memories of Elijah.

“He was always the one who was lifting other people up,” Carter said.

Smith’s grandfather did not hold back his anger when describing his feelings since the shooting.

“He called me ‘Gramp,’ short for grandpa,” Willie Townsend said. “I’m not going to be able to hear that anymore.”

He and other members of the family have a multitude of unanswered questions.

“This world is supposed to be all about love: What happened?” Townsend asked.

Body cameras worn by the three officers involved in the incident may answer some of those questions. However, the footage from those cameras has not yet been released.

A witness told FOX 13 he didn’t believe Smith was armed. Smith’s family said Elijah didn’t like guns and wouldn’t be carrying a weapon.

That’s why they can’t come to terms with his death.

“The reason why we run, especially the black people, is because we are afraid,” Townsend said. “We know what you’re going to do when you catch us. Our life is gone.”

The family wants the officers involved to face punishment – and they are vowing to keep fighting until they believe justice has been served.

“Something needs to be done about this and quick,” Townsend said. “We are tired of running. We are tired of hiding. We are tired. We are suffering.”

Loved ones have created a GoFundMe page to assist Smith's family with funeral costs.