West Valley City police officer who shot and killed 20-year-old theft suspect will not face criminal charges

SALT LAKE CITY – The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office ruled the West Valley City police officer who shot and killed Elijah Smith after Smith entered a home and brandished a screwdriver will not be criminally prosecuted.

On April 8, Smith, a suspect in a theft at a cell phone store, ran from officers and ended up in a home with three children inside.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill announced he was not pressing charges and walked through the officers body cam footage, describing how the incident unfolded.

Gill said Smith ran into the attached garage. Officers Nicholas Green and Phillip Wright followed with their guns drawn. Officer George Martinez, who was also responding to the incident, withdrew his Taser.

Gill says officers repeatedly yelled for Smith to show his hands, but he only put up his left hand first.

“When he’s asked to show the rest of his hand, that is when he’s pulling that screwdriver," Gill said.

Smith pulled out a screwdriver out of his hoodie and that’s when Martinez fired his taser, and Green fired his gun, killing Smith.

“There were three shots that were fired. One bullet made contact through the neck of Mr. Smith,” said Gill.

Officer Wright told investigators if Green did not shoot, he would have.

Green did not submit to an interview with the D.A.’s office.

“It remains unclear what he was thinking, feeling or even what he saw when he discharged his service weapon,” said Gill.

But based on the other officer’s testimonies and body cam footage, Gill concluded that Green would have been cleared if the case was taken to court.

“If we go to trial, he is not obligated to testify. That’s a constitutional right," Gill said.

Gill met with Smith’s family for several hours this morning to go over all their findings.

Smith’s sister told Fox 13 the family has a lot of mixed emotions right now. They don’t understand why the officer who shot Smith did not make a statement.