Knife-wielding Ogden man shot 11 times by police gets prison term
OGDEN — A judge on Friday sentenced a 31-year-old Ogden man to prison for advancing on police while armed with two knives in a domestic violence incident that ended with officers shooting him 11 times.
The subject of race was not mentioned in Jamal Bell’s sentencing hearing, although Bell, who is Black, and two Black Lives Matter chapters asserted after the shooting that police used excessive force, and more disproportionately so due to his race.
But 2nd District Judge Camille Neider, citing officers’ body camera video and other evidence entered during a preliminary hearing, told Bell, “Those officers were completely justified in shooting you.”
Bell’s girlfriend was still in her Harrisville apartment that night of March 23, 2019, and police were concerned about her safety, Neider said. The officers had a moral, ethical and legal obligation to remain on the scene after Bell kicked the door shut on them, the judge said.
“You’re lucky to be alive,” she told Bell, noting that officers first tried to use a stun gun on him. “You were the only one who could control what was happening that night.”
Neider sentenced him to one to 15 years in the Utah State Prison on a second-degree felony count of assault on a police officer. She ordered the sentence to run concurrently along with a class A misdemeanor term of auto theft, a crime that occurred last year when Bell was out on bail.
She chastised Bell for not staying out of trouble since the shooting and not taking advantage of family support and offers of treatment for substance abuse. “You could have done so much in the last three years,” she said. “That is frustrating to me.”
Defense attorney Michael Bouwhuis said Bell, who pleaded guilty in February, regrets his actions but did not remember much of it because he had been consuming alcohol. “He regrets he placed everyone in that situation,” Bouwhuis said.
Bouwhuis asked that Bell be put on probation so he can receive treatment and get a job. He said Bell is working in the Weber County Jail kitchen and receiving mental health counseling. “He is not a clear and present danger to repeat this kind of offense,” he said.
Bell’s mother, Chandra Bell, asked Neider to be merciful and lenient. “Please give him an opportunity to be a productive member of society,” she said.
Prosecutor Branden Miles of the Weber County Attorney’s Office said Bell “was the one who held all the cards that night.” He was told 18 times to drop the knives and police had no choice but to shoot Bell as he came within 8 feet of them and they could not retreat.
“It’s a miracle he is not deceased,” Miles said. “He has a second chance at life.”
The shooting has had significant impacts on the officers as well, Miles said. One’s marriage did not survive, one got out of law enforcement and a third became a corrections officer, a job where he won’t be in such life or death situations.
Miles said Bell deserves to go to prison because “he hasn’t learned, he hasn’t changed.”
“I am apologetic,” Bell said, but in response to comments that he had endangered his girlfriend, he said the police also endangered her because she was in the apartment behind him when they fired.
“If I could change anything, I would,” Bell said. “If I wasn’t so incoherent, if I knew what was going on, I would have dropped the knives.”
Bouwhuis said Bell needed several surgeries for his shooting injuries and still has three bullets inside his body..
Four officers, two from Harrisville and one each from Pleasant View and North Ogden, responded to the domestic violence call. At its climax, Bell had a knife in each hand, his arms outstretched, “and was taking small steps toward the door.” Bell, warned the officers would shoot if he took another step, took that step and was shot, three of the officers firing, the charges said.
After an investigation, Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred found the shooting was justified, that the officers had a reasonable fear they may be injured or killed.