Police shooting victim’s mental illness prompts questions

Police shooting victim’s mental illness prompts questions

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man killed in a police shooting in suburban Salt Lake City had previous run-ins with law enforcement and claimed to have mental illness, prompting concerns Friday from a Black Lives Matter activist that police acted too aggressively.

Officials with the Salt Lake City and Unified police departments said Friday that they had several encounters with Lonnie Marcel Bowen, 41, before he was killed following a reported hostage incident on Tuesday morning. None of the previous contacts were serious or violent, the spokespeople said.

Police reports obtained by the Deseret News show that Bowen had previously told police he was bipolar and abused methamphetamines. During one incident in March, authorities involuntarily committed him to a psychiatric exam and he was “very cooperative” throughout that process.

Based on that information, police should have been more cautious and less quick to start shooting, Black Lives Matter activist Lex Scott told The Associated Press.

“Instead of seeing that person could have some mental health issues and was disturbed and needed some de-escalation, obviously they pulled the trigger and he’s dead,” Scott said. “They did not try to de-escalate the situation. They did not bring in a mental health counselor.”

The shooting is being investigated by the Salt Lake City Police Department.

Bowen was killed early Tuesday after police responded to a 911 call saying a man threatened to stab an unidentified woman and asked to speak with a hostage negotiator.

Officers pursued a truck through West Valley City and into Magna, where police used tire spikes to bring it to a halt.

One officer then approached the vehicle and fired inside, killing Bowen. Police spokespeople would not comment on what led the officer to fire inside the vehicle.

Bowen’s death was one of three fatal shootings by Utah police in April.