OGDEN -- The Weber County Attorney's Office has found no grounds for prosecuting the officer who fatally shot a man brandishing a golf club during a drug raid last month.
In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon, County Attorney Dee Smith said Weber-Morgan Strike Force Sgt. Troy Burnett's use of force was justified under state law in the Sept. 16 death of Todd Blair.
The force is justified if the officer "reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person," Smith writes, quoting the statute in the criminal code.
Strike force agents executing a no-knock search warrant just before 10 p.m. entered the Roy home yelling, according to the release, several times "Police" and "Search warrant." Burnett was the first through the door.
"Mr. Blair appeared in the living room with a golf club raised above his head and was advancing towards the officers in an aggressive manner.
"Sergeant Burnett fired three shots. All three shots struck Mr. Blair and caused his death," Smith wrote.
In an interview, Smith said video was taken of the incident by helmet cams worn by both Burnett and the other officer who had entered the residence behind him.
"He didn't know it was a golf club," said Smith, describing the lighting as dim enough that Burnett could not tell that the item Blair held was a 5-iron.
"He could see it was a long metal object and Mr. Blair was in a striking position, a batter's stance," Smith said. "The officer in that situation doesn't have to wait to find out what the object is, whether it's a sword or a baseball bat."
Smith said he couldn't give an estimate of how many feet separated the two men when the shots were fired.
But they were close enough that Blair could have struck a possibly fatal blow within a "half-second" and Burnett had to make a "split-second decision."
Smith's findings were based on the outcome of an investigation by a multi-jurisdictional group of detectives who comprise an "officer-involved homicide" unit that conducts a criminal investigation of all deaths involving officers. The investigation resulted in a stack of reports more than four inches deep, Smith said.
Blair had been under investigation by the strike force for several months. In previous press comments, officials have said he was suspected of dealing methamphetamine and heroin; but family members and friends have said Blair was an addict and not a dealer, and no drugs were found in the home, according to the inventory the family was provided from the search warrant.
Smith said, however, a small amount of marijuana was found in the home, plus paraphernalia, and a container found in the dead man's pocket appeared to contain meth.
The substance field-tested as meth, Smith said, and is being confirmed by testing in the State Crime Lab. "It is believed he was on meth at the time of the confrontation from a fresh track mark found on his arm," Smith said.
Burnett was also cleared by an internal review board at the Ogden Police Department, his parent agency, and returned to work more than a week ago, Smith said. Burnett had been placed on paid administrative leave immediately after the shooting, which is standard practice while investigations are under way.
"The appearance of this weapon, the aggressive manner in which it was raised, the close proximity of Mr. Blair to Sergeant Burnett and the fact that he was advancing towards Sergeant Burnett justified the use of deadly force," Smith concluded in the news release. "Therefore, no criminal charges will be filed in this matter."
A family spokesman for the Blairs did not immediately return phone calls Tuesday, but family members have indicated they had retained an attorney in anticipation of the outcome of the investigation.
Family and friends described the 45-year-old Blair as a troubled addict, but never a dealer, who gave shelter to those in need and was a handy man who always did repairs for friends. He was living in a home owned by his parents, and "had $4 in his pocket when he died," said sister Tauna Blair Doesberg in an Oct. 1 story.
Burnett was involved, and cleared, in another officer-involved shooting in 2006. He and another officer, Aaron Hawes, shot and killed a white supremacist parolee named Billy Maw during a traffic stop after he pulled a gun on the officers.