OGDEN — A group of residents are demanding Ogden City officials take action to limit the use of deadly force by city police officers.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Ogden area activist Malik Dayo asked councillors and city administrators to “radically define when force is authorized, when it’s required” and mandate officers exhaust “all reasonably available alternatives before using deadly force.”
Dayo led a group which, in addition to calls for deescalation training, advocated for a host of alternatives to deadly force, including rubber bullets, bean bag guns, tasers and pepper spray. The group’s council showing was related to the Aug. 16 death of 26-year-old Ogden resident Jovany Mercado-Bedolla.
Mercado-Bedolla was shot by four members of the Ogden Police Department after they were dispatched to a home near the 800 block of 32nd Street in Ogden.
In a press release, the department said Weber Area Dispatch received a call about a man (later identified as Mercado-Bedolla) with a knife who approached a group having a party in their yard. Mercado-Bedolla was also reported to be searching vehicles. According to the police department, he was shot after he “ignored repeated orders to drop the knife” and “began advancing on the officers with the knife in clear view.”
After medics arrived, Mercado-Bedolla was declared dead at the scene.
The contingent that showed up at Tuesday’s council meeting included Mercado-Bedolla’s father, Juan Mercado, and his sister, Ruby Mercado.
According to a policy document on officer-involved critical incidents, the Ogden Police Department follows state law when it comes to using deadly force. Among other stipulations, Utah code says deadly force is justified when an “officer reasonably believes that (it) ... is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or another person.”
But Dayo, who acknowledged police officers have difficult jobs and are often required to make split-second decisions, believes that justification should no longer be used.
“Too many times the police justify their shootings by claiming that they were in fear of their lives,” Dayo said. “That narrative needs to change. That should no longer be an option for police to use as an excuse to shoot somebody.”
Ogden Council member Luis Lopez asked city Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson to provide a solid commitment about what the city would do to address the group’s concerns. Johnson declined to do so at the meeting, but said a more robust conversation would take place among top city brass. Johnson said the administration would have a response after those discussions take place.
“I think the (police) chief needs to be involved, the mayor needs to be involved, legal needs to be involved,” Johnson said. “But I’m willing to go back now and have the discussion internally and then we can come back.”
Johnson said there are four body cam videos of the incident, but he doesn’t know when those will be released.
Council member Rich Hyer offered condolences to Mercado-Bedolla’s family and friends, but also stressed the council should make decisions based on facts.
“We need to make sure we lead with solid policy and procedure and facts and not emotion,” he said. “Not that (emotion) can’t be a driver for us, but it certainly shouldn’t be the decision maker.”