On Friday, the Draper Police Department released body camera footage taken during Wednesday’s fatal officer-involved shooting. Almost of all of the video shows officers talking to a calm and polite suspect, but it takes a quick, violent turn.
KSL Utah reported that the seemingly subdued incident resulted in the death of 34-year-old Jeff R. Neilson, after he attempted to injure the officers with a knife.
“Things will change in an instant,” Draper Police Chief Bryan Roberts said before airing the video. “His actions highlight the very difficult nature of our profession. Without notice, an officer can be confronted with a violent circumstance and be involved in a fight for their life.”
The incident began when West Valley Police Officer Jason Vincent was on his way to work that day. As he was driving, he noticed Neilson slumped over the steering wheel in a parked SUV. He called for backup from the Draper Police Department because the vehicle was in their district. While there, a West Valley police sergeant on her way home also stopped.
Police Sgt. David Harris arrived after the call from Draper dispatch and he was wearing a running body camera on his uniform. As he approached the scene, the video captures Nielson out of his vehicle taking Vincent.
“I’ve been driving all over. I really don’t have anywhere to go. I just lost everything I’ve worked for my entire life,” he quietly tells the officer.
Officers are unaware at this time that Nielson has separated from his wife and there was a court order requiring him to stay away from their home in Sandy. Police had investigated five reports of him violating the protective order.
In addition, Nielson was also charged for an incident on December 6 in which prosecutors said he entered an apartment where his estranged wife was staying “without permission and began arguing” with her. He was described as “enraged.”
Now on Wednesday, Neilson tells police he has not been arrested for a of couple months. When asked about drugs, he denies having any in his possession.
“There’s no dope in my car,” he stated. At one point he quietly says what sounds like, “I don’t buy and sell drugs. I have to go to court and I can’t have drugs, I can’t see my kids.”
As the conversation continues, Nielson acts very politely with officers and even thanks them for the way he is being treated.
“Thanks for being cool and sorry for wasting your time,” he said to Vincent.
“You’ve been good with us, we’ll be good with you,” responded Harris.
According to KSL Utah, about a third of the way into the video, handcuffs are placed on Nielson. Shortly after, he informs the officers that there that there’s a kitchen knife with a 7- to 8-inch blade in his glove box. West Valley Police Chief Lee Russo said Friday that at that point there was no imminent threat to officers because Nielson was in handcuffs 15 feet away, so they left the knife in the vehicle.
Neilson is then searched and officers find heroin. A further search of his vehicle uncovers crack, cocaine and syringes. At one point, Harris walks over to Nielson’s vehicle and the body camera shows several papers inside the cab and what looked like a picture of his family.
Before the fatal shooting, officers decide to transfer Neilson from one set of handcuffs to the ones from the West Valley officer who will be taking him to jail. Because of his calm nature, the officers allows him to put his left hand on his head while one cuff is removed. But as soon as the right cuff is taken off, Nielson is seen on the footage making a mad dash to his SUV.
For the next 38 seconds, a struggle ensues.
“When the suspect breaks free and runs to the vehicle, the threat of that knife now becomes an imminent threat,” Russo said.
One of the officers attempted to taser Neilson but it has no affect. They can be seen pulling him from his vehicle but Neilson struggles to get back in. At one point, Harris’ camera is knocked off his uniform but the audio still recorded the incident.
KSL Utah reported that the audio catches an officer yelling, “Knife!” A shot is heard fired, followed by four more rounds in quick secession. Roberts said two shots hit Nielson in the side, one in the chest, another in the arm and one in the back. He was pronounced dead a short time later.
The audio reveals the sounds of the officers as they try and collect themselves. Heavy breathing and some swearing can be heard as it sinks in what just transpired.
“I didn’t even see the knife,” Harris said at one point in the video.
“He had it in right in his hand. I was worried I shot you in the shoulder,” Vincent told him.
Vincent remained on paid administrative leave Friday pending investigations by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Draper police and an internal investigation by West Valley police.