Several unrelated officer-involved shootings have many Americans pushing for answers

By Ali Monsen

Published 08/14 2014 10:49PM

Updated 08/14 2014 10:51PM

TAYLORSVILLE, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Concerned citizens held a vigil, Thursday, to honor those killed in officer-involved shootings and voice frustration.

Utahns are not the only ones concerned, though. Several unrelated officer-involved shootings have many Americans pushing for answers. Some argue that implicit racism and prejudice play a role in how officers react during potentially dangerous situations. Now, people across the country are speaking out.

They started out with an honorary moment of silence, but they did not stay silent for long.

"This event was organized to give people in our city—and over 100 cities around the country—a safe space to express these feelings without fear of reprimand," said a local vigil organizer.

Jerrail Taylor is one of those people.

"This really means a lot to me,” Taylor said of the gathering.

Taylor watched as police confronted and shot his fugitive brother—Dillon Taylor—Monday night.

“I guarantee it was a racial thing. They see 2 Hispanic guys walking off with my cousin who was wearing Hispanic clothing—tall tees and Dickies and all that stuff…” explained Taylor. “[Police] cornered us automatically. All we did—same thing the 911 cameras will show—walked out with our drinks, and we get surrounded, and my brother gets shot, he said.

But police tell a different story.

”There was a man with a gun, waving a gun around. Those officers responded to the area. They happened to be nearby and they encountered that male that matched that description and he became agitated when they verbally challenged him,” said Sgt. Darin Sweeten with the South Salt Lake Police Dept.

But officer-involved shootings happen all over the place. Authorities in Ferguson, Missouri continue investigating whether implicit racism played a role in 18 year-old Michael Brown's death. Meanwhile, riots are erupting and protesters are not letting up.

"What we truly want are answers," said one protester.

Ferguson’s Police Chief says it is simple—that Brown had a fight with the officer.

“[The officer’s face] was swollen so he had obviously been hit or punched, or something like that,” he said.

Here in Utah, some worry all the hype could jeopardize officers' safety.

"They have—100 percent—the right to protect themselves over anything else, and until you are actually in the situation, I don't think people will understand the situation that they go through, putting their lives on the line everyday," said Dillon Whittaker, a concerned citizen whose father is a police officer.

The Utah Fraternal Order of Police responded to all of this by providing the following statement:

"The Utah Fraternal Order of Police is proud to represent over 2000 members of the law enforcement family.

Every officer in this state goes to work day after day knowing he or she might be called on to respond to their communities most tragic and violent events. In ever more difficult times, those good officers are routinely met with violence. In the overwhelming majority of cases, even when officers' safety is significantly threatened, the incident is resolved without loss of life. Unfortunately, there are times where the suspects' actions create a deadly force decision by officers.

It is important to remember that officers are always reacting to the suspect's actions. These deadly force decisions are made in mere seconds, sometimes less. Every officer is aware that the decision to use deadly force will immediately create long lasting impacts in the community, the suspects' lives, and their own lives. The decision is never easy, and is always made in defense of the lives of the officers and the lives of others.

The greater police family of Utah appreciates the deep support we enjoy within the state. The officers of this state will continue to put their own lives and safety on the line in the defense of the law abiding citizens of our communities."

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