Salt Lake District Attorney Sim Gill released graphic video of a man’s unwavering attack on a police officer last month as he announced Wednesday that another officer coming to help was legally justified in shooting the man to stop him. As he released the footage and his findings, Gill said that Salt Lake police officer Gregory Lovell — who first responded to a Sept. 28 call about an erratic and aggressive man trespassing in a salon and inappropriately grabbing a woman — did everything he could to try to defuse the situation. It was the subject of the call, 39-year-old Michael Bruce Peterson, who escalated the confrontation to deadly levels, Gill emphasized, prompting Salt Lake Police Lt. Andrew Oblad to shoot. “The violence that’s exacted against officer Lovell and the threat that is present to Lt. Oblad, that is ever-present and escalating, they had no choice but to use the force that they did,” Gill said. Video recorded by Lovell’s body-worn camera showed the officer arriving at a downtown salon near 500 East and 300 South and spotting Peterson walking briskly across the parking lot. As Peterson strides past the salon and over to a car, Lovell is heard calling out to him, calmly but firmly telling him, “stop,” “come here,” and “hey, sir.” As Lovell follows Peterson at a distance, he asks for backup on his radio, saying, “He’s not going to stop for me.” Lovell told investigators after the incident he believed Peterson was under the influence of something.
Medical information about whether Peterson was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the incident has not been released, Gill said. The video shows that Lovell’s calls to Peterson remain low-key, telling him, “Hey come here, just come talk to me for a minute,” as Peterson protests and continues on. When the two reach a Maverik convenience store at 508 E. 300 South, Peterson climbs into an unlocked Jeep, cursing as Lovell repeatedly tells him, “Don’t!” and a man off camera shouts, “Get out of my car!” Lovell hits Peterson with a Taser through the open window and Peterson launches out of the car. Surveillance footage from the convenience store shows Peterson grappling with the officer and pursuing him across the Maverik parking lot, scooping up Lovell’s baton when he dropped it and beginning to beat the officer. Meanwhile, Oblad arrived at the scene, rushing to help Lovell and drawing away Peterson’s attention, ordering Peterson to stop. Oblad told investigators he could see that Lovell’s face was bloodied and he had appeared injured as Peterson advanced on him. As he repeatedly ordered him to stop, Peterson answered instead, “Oh, you want some of this?” and came after him.
A bystander in a nearby pickup truck recorded on his cellphone as Peterson rushed at Oblad, the baton raised up like a baseball bat ready to swing, and Oblad fired. Gill noted during his presentation that when the shots didn’t stop Peterson, Oblad feared the man rushing toward him was wearing body armor, and he continued shooting. Peterson was ultimately struck 10 times before going down. He was pronounced dead at the scene. According to Gill’s report, both Lovell and Oblad told investigators they feared for their lives and the lives of those around them throughout Peterson’s rampage. Lovell’s ankle and nose were both broken in the fray. He remained on leave from the department with his leg in a cast as of Wednesday, but hopes to return to work soon, Salt Lake Police Chief Mike Brown said. Oblad’s arm was also injured, and while Gill’s report indicates Peterson was close enough to strike him at one point, Oblad doesn’t remember how he was hurt. Brown noted that Oblad was finishing his final shift with the department before retirement when he answered Lovell’s call for backup. “The men and women of the Salt Lake Police Department are trained … to have the judgment and the ability to operate in these very violent and very fast-moving situations,” Brown said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s your first day on the job, it doesn’t matter if it’s your last day on the job. It’s important that we instill that kind of training and those kinds of skills into our officers.” Both Gill and Brown commended Lovell’s attempts to de-escalate the confrontation, which has been a focus of training within the department. Peterson’s criminal history in Utah dates back more than 20 years. He served several stints in the Utah State Prison, including a lengthy sentence for attempted murder and tampering with a witness in Utah County in July 1997. At the time of the shooting, Gill said a warrant was out for Peterson’s arrest, after he left a halfway house after being released from prison on parole.