2 fatal crashes were not caused by police actions, district attorney concludes

Sep 30, 2022, 8:11 PM
Two separate fatal crashes that started with drivers trying to flee from police did not result from...
Two separate fatal crashes that started with drivers trying to flee from police did not result from the actions of police officers, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office concluded Friday. (Salt Lake City Police Department)
(Salt Lake City Police Department)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office on Friday announced decisions regarding two fatal crashes that started with drivers allegedly trying to flee from police, including one in which an innocent bystander was killed.

But in each incident, after months of review, District Attorney Sim Gill determined that neither case rose to the level of an “officer-involved critical incident” and thus he did not make a decision about whether the actions of the officers involved were legally justified. Gill declined to file any criminal charges.

On Oct. 16, 2021, North Salt Lake police attempted to pull over a Ford F-250 driving erratically that was “running people off the road,” according to Gill’s final report. Witnesses told police they believed the driver, Christian Cody Facer, 40, also had a bottle of alcohol in the passenger seat.

Officers first spotted Facer on U.S. 89 near Center Street in North Salt Lake. He proceeded onto I-15 where he “continued to drive erratically, weaving between cars on the freeway and speeding at over 100 mph at times,” according to Gill’s report. He exited the freeway at 1000 North and 900 West in Salt Lake City, ran a red light at 1000 North and 1200 West, and then ran a stop sign at the intersection of 500 North and 1200 West, where he slammed into a car and killed Thy Hoang Vu, 33, also known as Thy Vu Mims, co-founder and owner of Mims Bakery.

An Officer Involved Critical Incident Team investigated the crash and presented its findings to Gill’s office nine months ago in December.

On Friday, Gill said that based on the “available evidence,” he does not believe the case falls into the definition of an officer-involved critical incident. His office determined that Mims’ death did not result from the actions of the two North Salt Lake officers pursuing Facer that day, and he declined to file any charges against the officers.

In February, the officer who was following Facer when the crash occurred was also cleared by North Salt Lake police as part of an internal investigation.

Facer, who was originally charged with manslaughter but later had his charges amended to murder, has a history of driving drunk and police say in this case his blood-alcohol level was seven times the legal limit. In August, he was ordered to stand trial for murder. His next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

Gill’s other ruling on Friday involved a fatal crash from March. But like the Facer case, Gill announced Friday that he does not believe the incident rose to the level of an officer-involved critical incident.

On March 16, a Taylorsville officer spotted a stolen Chrysler 200 near 4200 S. Redwood Road. When the officer attempted to pull the vehicle over, the driver fled. Officers in the area kept surveillance on the vehicle but did not engage in a chase. Near 4100 South and 1300 West, a Taylorsville officer spiked some of the vehicle’s tires, and then a short time later, a second set of spikes was deployed.

The car continued to drive at a slower speed, however, through residential areas. Police still did not chase the vehicle on the ground, but rather let a Department of Public Safety helicopter follow it from the air, according to Gill’s report.

About 12:10 a.m. on March 17, as the vehicle headed north on Atherton Drive (4370 South), the driver, Jeremy Arthur Lettow, 40, of Salt Lake City, failed to negotiate a turn near 1200 West and crashed into a pole. Lettow and a passenger were taken to a local hospital with what appeared to be leg injuries, according to police. Several hours later, however, officers were notified that Lettow had died from his injuries.

As in the previous case, Gill determined Friday that Lettow’s fatal injuries did not result from the conduct of the officers. Furthermore, although he was taken to a local hospital, he was not in police custody at the time of his death, according to Gill’s ruling. Lettow not only chose not to pull over, the report concluded, “he chose to operate the vehicle in an extremely reckless and life-threatening manner.”

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2 fatal crashes were not caused by police actions, district attorney concludes