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'Justified' Shot Fired by Cottonwood Heights Officer, DA Determines

Judy Fahys
A picture of the revolver found in the teens underwear at the hospital after he was shot by a Cottonwood Heights police officer. Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has ruled the shot fired by the officer was justified.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill has ruled that a Cottonwood Heights police officer who shot a 17-year-old two months ago had good reason to use his weapon.

The district attorney cleared Sgt. Chris McHugh after reviewing the dramatic lead-up to the confrontation that played out under an I-15 overpass. In fact, he signaled that McHugh’s handling of the situation was textbook.

“Based on that totality, we concluded that Sergeant McHugh reasonably believed deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person and, therefore, was justified in the use of deadly force,” the D.A. said.

Gill said key factors included a high-speed chase from Fort Union to the 1300 South overpass and a box of .22 caliber bullets that tumbled out of the teen’s backpack as he tried to ditch his car. Then, once the officer slid his own gun into the holster, the teen reached again to his waist as he lay on the sidewalk.

Gill said a handgun was found in the teen’s underwear at the hospital where he was treated for a gunshot to the hip. The teen is being prosecuted as a juvenile, and Sgt. McHugh is back on the job.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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