Two Deaths in One day Following Multiple Officer-Related Shootings in Utah

Multiple Officer-Related Shootings in Utah over the past couple weeks have resulted in the deaths of five individuals, two of those deaths taking place today.

Officer-Related Shooting

Photo by: Dean Strelau

Early this morning, officers were responding to a domestic disturbance when they came upon 26 year old Jason Whittle who was holding a knife to his mother’s throat. Officers shot and killed Whittle, saving the mother from her son’s threatening behavior with a weapon that turned out to be a butter knife.

Another officer-related shooting

Also taking place today was the death of another Utah resident who was shot by police. A few days before he succumbed to his injuries, police shot 61 year old James Lyle Kuehn after he was suspected to be the person of interest in a robbery of a fast-food restaurant in Kearns. Kuehn was said to be in dangerous possession of a small knife. Police located him nearby and after tazing him, opened fire with what eventually turned out to be lethal shots. It is unknown at this time whether or not Kuehn displayed that small knife before officers opened fire.

And more…

The deaths of Whittle and Kuehn today are added to the growing number of “shot by police” fatalities that have taken place within the last couple weeks throughout Utah. Also killed by Utah police recently were:

• 23 year old Andrey Tkachenko, a parolee shot and killed by Metro Gang Unit on October 18. (unknown if he was armed);
• 17 year old Jacob E. Albrethsen, shot and killed by officers responding to a domestic disturbance on October 12. (Albrethsen was armed with a knife);
• 22 year old Diamonte Riviore, killed by police following a domestic violence call on October 10 (Riviore was also armed with a knife).

Was deadly force needed?

One common theme among the five officer-related shooting deaths lately was the question of whether or not any of these shootings were necessary. Did officers truly fear that their or a victim’s lives were in danger when the knives involved in 4 out of 5 of the shootings were displayed? Was it necessary to shoot to kill? Were the tazers used in a few of those incidents essentially “ineffective” or did officers react too quickly in a nerve-racking situation? With the tension continuing to rise between law enforcement and the public they are sworn to protect, it is imperative that those behind the badge who go through extensive training are an example to others of how we should react when faced with these high-stress situations.