Utah police officers cleared in October shooting that left suspect dead in Salt Lake City

Utah News

“Based on the evidence presented to us,” said Sim Gill, “we do not intend to file any criminal charges” against Detective Jerry Valdez of the Unified Police Department and Detective Nick Stidham of the Saratoga Springs Police Department.

The evidence — including physical and photographic evidence, and statements from witnesses and officers — convinced Gill and his staff that the detectives “would be able to claim successfully at trial that each believed that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury.”

Stidham declined to answer questions or provide a statement to investigators.

According to police, Tkachenko fled from a UPD officer in a stolen car on Oct. 16. Two days later, after obtaining a warrant for a GPS tracking device, detectives from the Metro Gang Unit and other officers tracked a stolen car driven by Tkachenko to a Walmart at 4627 S. 900 East, but did not try to apprehend him “because of a potential safety risk to the public,” Gill said.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) As video surveillance plays, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill talks about his review of a fatal shooting by officers from the Unified Police Department and South Salt Lake police department on October 18, 2018 at 445 E. 300 South in Salt Lake City.
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According to detectives, Tkachenko got out of the stolen car and into another vehicle. Two women then got into the stolen car, following him to a parking lot at 451 E. 300 South.

When Valdez and Stidham approached him, Tkachenko “started revving the engine and rapidly accelerated, driving his car at both detectives,” Gill said. “Both detectives fired their weapons at Mr. Tkachenko out of fear of being pinned underneath and hit by the vehicle.”

A security video shows the stolen car and the car driven by Tkachenko enter the narrow parking lot, which has only one entrance/exit; officers arriving in their vehicles; and officers approaching the car Tkachenko was driving. There’s no audio, but the car that police said Tkachenko was driving can be seen slamming into a police pickup truck, knocking it sideways into a wall.

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There is no body camera video. According to Gill, the battery in Valdez’s body camera ran out before the incident; Stidham did not activate his body camera until after the shooting.

The two officers were slightly injured when their knees were “grazed by the car as it sped toward them,” Gill said.

Valdez and Stidham stopped firing “when they realized they were no longer in danger,” Gill said. As they then approached the vehicle, Tkachenko “raised both his hands and then began lowering one hand to the waistband.” The officers broke the driver’s side window “and stopped Mr. Tkachenko’s movements.” They later “found a handgun in Mr. Tkachenko’s waistband.”

The officers began life-saving efforts, but Tkachenko died from four gunshot wounds to his side.

Gill said the case was “not a difficult one”; he attributed the nine-month delay in making his decision to the fact that his office had to deal with several such cases in recent months.

The two officers have returned to duty.

“I also want to take a second to, just again, acknowledge to Mr. Tkachenko’s family that anytime you have a loss of life of a loved one, that’s a tragedy,” Gill said. The family did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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