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Utah police kill 20-year-old Teamster who was fleeing for his life. Protest planned

By staff |
April 10, 2018
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West Valley City, UT - In the third recent act of brutality by the West Valley City Police Department, on April 8, officers killed Elijah James Smith, a young Black man who was fleeing for his life.

Few details are currently available on what happened, except the sparse pieces of information released by police. The department is withholding body camera footage of the killing and the events leading up to it.

Nevertheless, it appears that Smith was seeking refuge from police who chased him as they searched for a suspect in an alleged robbery. Officials from the department say Smith matched the description of the suspect, though they have not specified exactly what that description was.

Smith entered two houses in the area of 3400 South and Redwood Road as he fled in fear from West Valley City (WVC) cops, a department that is known to be both violent and corrupt. Three WVC officers followed Smith into the second home where an officer shot and killed him. Three young children were present inside the home. Smith died at the scene.

Smith was a Teamster who worked at the local UPS hub until recently. His UPS coworkers have planned a protest for Saturday, April 14, at 4 p.m. at the WVC police department headquarters to demand justice.

“What right did [the WVCPD officer] have to traumatize the three innocent children for years to come?” asked UPS coworker Parker Heywood. “The police officer did not serve and protect on Sunday, and many lives will forever be affected. I hope that the police officer will receive the punishment that he deserves. No one should be above the law, including police officers!”

WVC cops have recently committed several other acts of brutality. One officer shot the teenage driver of a car in mid-March. Police officials say the car had “lurched” forward as the officer approached it. No footage or further information has been released regarding the incident.

WCV officers also invaded the home of a grieving family in late February. A young couple’s baby had died at a local hospital just hours before. When a family member refused to let the officers into the home as they recovered from their loss, the officers kicked down the door, assaulted several people inside, used pepper spray on family members, and illegally searched the home. Family members released footage of the incident they had recorded as it occurred. The two officers who committed the assaults have been reassigned but not fired.

The WVC department is also known for corruption. Its infamous drug unit was disbanded in 2012 in the wake of the killing of Danielle Willard. WVC cops in the unit were found to be stealing money, drugs, and ‘trophies’ from alleged crime scenes, stealing and/or misplacing evidence and illegally using GPS tracking devices without warrants. The drug-unit officer who killed Willard in 2012 during a sting operation was later fired after the shooting was found to be illegal. A judge dismissed the criminal case against the officer, who was then reinstated to the department before resigning with back pay. The drug unit has since been relaunched.

Protest organizers are demanding the release of footage of Elijah James Smith’s killing, firing of the officers involved in the death, and an end to WVCPD’s violent tactics. The event will be held at 4 p.m., Saturday, April 14 at 3600 South Constitution Boulevard in West Valley.

More information can be found on Facebook at the “Justice for Elijah James Smith!” event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/159804091367395/

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