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Farmington officers’ use of deadly force in Chase Allan case deemed justified

By Tim Vandenack - | Sep 12, 2023
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In this image taken from police body-worn camera video, police officers hold up their weapons during a traffic stop Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in Farmington. The footage released on Wednesday, March 8, 2023, shows five officers opening rounds of fire into all sides of a car after they can be heard alerting each other that the driver, 25-year-old Chase Allan, has a gun. The Allan family has since raised questions about police actions.
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Chase Allan in an undated photo.
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A makeshift memorial to Chase Allan outside the U.S. Postal Service office in Farmington, photographed Wednesday, March 8, 2023. He was shot and killed by Farmington police near the location during a March 1, 2023, traffic stop.

FARMINGTON — Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings determined that the Farmington police officers involved in the deadly confrontation with Chase Allan earlier this year were within their rights to use force against the man.

Accordingly, they won’t face criminal charges in the case, which sparked strong backlash from some who had charged the officers with use of excessive force. Allan, a suspected sympathizer with the “sovereign citizen” movement, was pulled over March 1 in Farmington because his car didn’t have a proper license plate. He refused to cooperate with responding officers, arguing in part that he didn’t need to register his auto, and they shot and killed the man, still in his car, as he apparently pulled a gun from a holster around his waist.

“The evidence is persuasive,” Rawlings wrote in a letter to Farmington Police Chief Eric Johnsen, supplied to the Standard-Examiner on Tuesday. “There is no reasonable probability of conviction. The officers had a reasonable, articulable and objectively verifiable belief that use of deadly force was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to themselves or others.”

Johnsen, speaking Tuesday, said the five officers involved in the incident have been back on the job. Rawlings informed Johnson of his determination in a letter dated July 28, though public word is only getting out now.

“We feel like the investigation was thorough,” Johnsen said. Rawlings didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment and family or friends of Allan couldn’t be immediately reached.

Allan used language with police during the March 1 stop that aligns with the sovereign citizen movement — “I think it’s extremely clear he was part of that movement,” Johnsen said — and his death prompted charges from some that the response by officers was out of line. Proponents of the sovereign citizen movement, very broadly, argue that they are not beholden to certain U.S. laws, including the need for driver’s licenses and license plates for noncommercial travel.

The anger some felt toward police came out at a March 14 Farmington City Council meeting. Kerry Lund of Clearfield was among the speakers and he referred derisively to the five responding policemen as “code enforcement officers.”

“That poor kid just had no license plate, no license plate on his car. And it took five code enforcement officers — dragged him out of his car and killed him,” he charged at the March meeting.

In his letter to Johnsen, though, Rawlings paints a different picture. Rawlings based his findings on a probe into the incident carried out by the Davis County Incident Protocol Team, tasked with investigating officer-involved shootings. He cited the state law that spells out justifiable use of deadly force.

The initial responding officer “lawfully stopped the deceased, who was driving with a false license plate,” reads Rawlings’ letter. The plate on the back of Allan’s car featured a flag with 13 red and white verticle strips, associated with the sovereign citizen movement, according to Vice News.

“The deceased then failed to follow lawful commands from (the officer) to provide required documents. The deceased refused to step out of the car indicating by word, deed and demeanor that he would not comply. The deceased attempted to withdraw a loaded firearm on the assembled officers, actually succeeding in getting it out of the holster he was carrying it in,” Rawlings wrote.

The Standard-Examiner isn’t naming the responding officers as they aren’t accused by officials of wrongdoing.

Farmington police publicly provided footage from the body cameras worn by the responding officers a week after the incident. In it, Allan is defiant with officers.

“I don’t need registration and I don’t answer questions,” he says at one point.

Five officers in all converge on the scene and they ultimately order Allan out of the car, warning him that they’ll forcefully remove him if he doesn’t cooperate. An officer opens the driver’s side door of Allan’s car and on seeing he has a gun that he is apparently pulling out, retreats, shouting, “Gun, gun, gun, gun, gun, gun, gun!”

That’s when the officers fire on Allan, killing him. Allan was wearing a holster around his waist, it turns out, and in the aftermath of the gunfire, a gun is visible on the floor of the driver’s side of the car, according to the body camera video.

In his letter, Rawlings alluded to the “aggressive input” the incident prompted, an apparent reference to the sovereign citizen movement sympathizers critical of the Farmington officers’ response. He emphasized, though, that the use of force didn’t stem from Allan’s improper plate.

“They fired in self-defense because deadly force was in the process of being engaged against them while they were attempting to address the violations civilly,” Rawlings wrote.

He went on, saying police officers aren’t the proper conduit to challenge laws, referencing Allan’s apparent contention that he didn’t need to register his car. “The proper forum for that is the judiciary, not with a gun in a parking lot,” Rawlings wrote.

Allan is a Davis High School and Utah State University graduate, according to his obituary, which also referenced the young man’s personal beliefs.

“He had been studying constitutional law the last few years and was a patriot doing what he could to defend the people’s freedom and liberty in his community. He paid the ultimate price for his freedom with his devastating and tragic death,” reads the obituary.


Johnsen said the initial hostility some directed at Farmington police and other city workers after the March 1 incident — contrasted by support from many others — has waned. “There were a lot of extreme opinions early on and it continued for some time,” he said.

However, four misdemeanor charges are still winding through 2nd District Court in Layton against Steven Baggs, 47, who allegedly phoned in threats to Johnsen and his family in response to the March 1 incident. Johnsen’s wife hung up on one call, but the man called back, leaving a message on voicemail.

“Yeah you might hang up on me and you might … tell me not to call, but guess what, I’m coming to get you. … Either way you’re f—— dead, you’re (sic) husband’s a fascist. You’re all fascists. You’re all gonna die,” Baggs allegedly said, according to an affidavit in the matter.

Baggs was scheduled to make his first appearance in court last month but was a no show, according to court papers, and a warrant was issued for his detention. Baggs, who used to teach art at Southern Utah University, also faces several charges in Iron County for allegedly making threats toward faculty at the university, according to the St. George News.

The incident involving Allan prompted debate in Utah about the sovereign citizen movement. The movement isn’t “prolific” in Davis County, Johnsen said, “but it’s an element that’s out there.”

He said Farmington police have encountered two others during traffic stops with suspected sovereign citizen sympathies in the wake of the Allan incident, though the incidents didn’t escalate. “I know there have been other incidents around the county,” Johnsen said.

Farmington City Manager Brigham Mellor said numerous Davis County law enforcement agencies took part in a training session after the March 1 incident related to dealing with those in the sovereign citizen movement. It was already planned, he said, though he thinks the Allan incident sparked some agencies to take part in the training.


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