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Knife-holding man shot by police 11 times pleads guilty to assault against an officer

By Mark Shenefelt - | Feb 28, 2022

BEN DORGER, Standard-Examiner file photo

Jamal Bell sits at the defense table with attorney Shawn Condie during a preliminary hearing on Friday, Dec. 13, 2019, regarding an incident he had with police officers in March. Bell was shot 11 times by officers outside an apartment complex in Harrisville.

OGDEN — A man who was shot 11 times in a confrontation with police three years ago has pleaded guilty to a charge of assault on a police officer arising from the incident, which was described by two Black Lives Matter groups as a use of excessive force.

Jamal Samuel Bell, 30, of Ogden, who is Black, pleaded guilty Thursday in 2nd District Court to one count of second-degree felony assault against a peace officer and a class A misdemeanor charge of domestic violence-related criminal mischief.

In return, the Weber County Attorney’s Office dropped three other officer assault charges and agreed to a reduced charge against Bell in an unrelated case.

Bell was arguing with his girlfriend at their Harrisville apartment on March 23, 2019, when a neighbor saw Bell pick up the woman in a bear hug and her hitting him with her fists. They went back into the apartment, the door having been broken by Bell.

Four officers, two from Harrisville and one each from Pleasant View and North Ogden, responded to the call. According to charging documents, Bell came to the door holding a knife in each hand and did not respond to orders to drop the knives. Bell advanced on the first two officers on the scene and one of the officers shot at him with a stun gun. The stun probes did not hit Bell and he retreated into the house.

Image supplied, Weber County Attorney's Office

In this screengrab taken from police bodycam video, Jamal Bell is shown inside his Harrisville apartment on March 23, 2019, moments before he was shot in a confrontation there with officers from the Harrisville, North Ogden and Pleasant View police departments.

According to the charges, Bell returned toward the door with a knife still 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.

In a recitation of the incident in the plea bargain document signed by Bell, authorities said Bell was told 18 times to drop the knives, and that he had closed to within 8 feet of the officers when they fired.

“The city is grateful that the officers were not physically injured and that their body camera recordings captured what occurred during the chilling confrontation with Bell,” a statement from Harrisville City said after body cam video was released to the public, according to previous Standard-Examiner coverage. “Like the county attorney, the city concluded that the officers acted within policy in shooting Bell and cleared them to return to duty.”

The Utah and Northern Utah chapters of Black Lives Matter decried the shooting of Bell in the days and weeks following. They contended the officers used excessive force and should have tried more to deescalate the situation.

Photo supplied, Black Lives Matter Utah

In this undated photo, Jamal Bell is pictured at the hospital following a March 23, 2019, confrontation with police in Harrisville. Officers from the Harrisville, North Ogden and Pleasant View police departments fired on him during a domestic disturbance call, officials say, after he refused to drop knives he was carrying.

Asked about Bell’s plea bargain on Monday, Jacarri Kelley, head of Black Lives Matter of Northern Utah, said, “If they don’t get you one way they’re going to try to get you another way.”

Efforts to reach Bell’s public defender, Michael Bouwhuis, were not immediately successful.

Bell was returned to the Weber County Jail after the plea bargain hearing. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 15. During the hearing, Bell also pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree felony attempted auto theft stemming from his arrest last Nov. 8 in Ogden. Charging documents said Bell, out on bail pending resolution of the Harrisville case, was pulled over by an Ogden officer who noticed the car he was driving was reported stolen.

In an interview with the Standard-Examiner from his hospital bed while recovering from the shooting, Bell said, “I’m injured and they’re not getting anything charged to them. I didn’t do nothing. I didn’t threaten them. I didn’t do nothing.”

He said the officers could have done more to defuse the situation.

“They were yelling and it confused me. I just felt like they could’ve done some stuff better and helped deescalate the problem instead of just going right to violence and shooting me 11 times and trying to murder me, basically,” Bell said.


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