FARMINGTON - When a tragedy like the shooting of two law enforcement officers in Utah County Thursday night happens, it affects all law enforcement officers, including those who serve in Davis County.
Kaysville Police Chief Sol Obergand Davis County Sheriff Todd Richardson agree that situations in which officers are killed while helping others are difficult and can make an officer nervous or can even affect their personal lives.
On Thursday afternoon, a suspect was wounded by Juab County deputies, but not before he had killed a 19-year Utah County Sheriff’s veteran, Sgt. Cory Wride and wounded Utah County Deputy Greg Sherwood. Wride was “ambushed” as he stopped to check on a vehicle at the side of the road near Eagle Mountain, according to Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.
During a press conference, Tracy described the shooting and subsequent chase through Utah County into Juab County, as “An evil that ran through Utah County.”
“It’s tough because these kinds of things are becoming more common,” Oberg said. “We try to leave the baggage of the job here at work, but when these things happen it starts to invade our personal lives,” as wives and other family members worry about the safety of their loved ones, he said.
Speaking of Thursday afternoon’s tragedy, Oberg echoed Tracy’s sentiment, calling the shootings “Evil; It was basically an assassination,” he said.
Police are trained not only to go after criminals, but to help people when the need arises, and no amount of training can prepare an officer for a situation like Thursday’s.
“We receive a lot of training to recognize situations that may be harmful," Richardson said, but officers can’t always tell the danger.
“People often wonder why an officer seems tense when they are pulled over,” Richardson said. It’s situations like Thursday’s and the one that happened in August in Draper when Sgt. Derek Johnson was killed while helping a couple in a car at the side of the road that can lead to that tension.
“You sometimes see on dashcam that an officer begins yelling during a traffic stop if someone jumps out of their car quickly,” Richardson said. Training has taught officers that sudden, quick moves means there’s a high probability that there may be a problem, Richardson said.
“There’s such good men and women in law enforcement,” Oberg said. “They’re altruistic, willing to work long hours, weekends and shift work for very little pay,” he said.
Events like Thursday’s can also reaffirm the good part of the job and why officers chose it, he said.
Officers are trained to be courteous no matter what they’re feeling, Oberg said, “But officers try to react to the public with empathy, “I encourage the public to put themselves in the officer’s shoes and try to understand what the officer may be dealing with.”
Richardson advises anyone who is approached in their vehicle by law enforcement to make sure they keep their hands where the officer can see them. If they are driving, that’s on the steering wheel. If they are a passenger, hands should be on the dashboard or the top of the back seat.
At night, it’s also best to turn the interior lights on to be more visible.
“Don’t make any quick moves and don’t exit your vehicle,” Richardson said.
Richardson conveyed his condolences to Tracy and his officers on Thursday night, and offered any assistance his office could provide.