OGDEN — Felony charges were filed Tuesday against a man who was shot by police “several” times at his apartment in Harrisville on March 23, according to charging documents.
Moreover, the police involved in the matter have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
Jamal Samuel Bell, 28, meanwhile, expressed disappointment, saying the incident in question didn’t have to escalate to the point it did. Bell was charged with four counts of assault against a peace officer, a second-degree felony, in the March incident. He also faces one count of criminal mischief — intentional damage of property, a class A misdemeanor.
In charging documents, the names of four police officers from the Harrisville, Pleasant View and North Ogden police departments are listed. They indicate three officers fired their weapons at Bell during the incident, with another unsuccessfully firing a Taser before shots were fired.
The three officers who fired their guns were identified as Nicholas Taylor of the Harrisville Police Department, Trent Wilson of the Pleasant View Police Department and Ryan Watkins of the North Ogden Police Department. The fourth is named as Officer Fredrick Mabrey of the Harrisville Police Department, who did not fire any shots but attempted to subdue Bell with a Taser before the three officers fired their guns.
Police were called to an apartment building in Harrisville on March 23 after a report of some sort of disturbance, which led to a confrontation between Bell and officers in the unit where he was living. Bell, holding knives in each hand authorities have said, was shot multiple times after police repeatedly told him to drop them.
Bell, reached by phone, didn’t go into the details of what transpired on March 23, but pointed his finger at the officers involved. “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.
He said he was shot 11 times and maintains the officers could have calmed the situation without resorting to their weapons.
“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.
Following the incident, the Weber County Attorney’s Office investigated whether the use of force was justified. A press release Tuesday from a legal firm representing the city of Harrisville, Snow Christensen & Martineau, said County Attorney Chris Allred would not bring criminal charges against the officers involved.
“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,” the statement said, noting the April 4 release of one of the officer’s body cam footage. “Like the county attorney, the city concluded that the officers acted within policy in shooting Bell and cleared them to return to duty.”
On April 4, police released body camera footage from one of the officers involved in the shooting. The following day, Ogden’s chapter of the NAACP called for a “full and impartial” review surrounding the Harrisville police shooting.
At the same time, Lex Scott, a leader of Black Lives Matter Utah, has spoken out strongly in defense of Bell and agains the officers involved in the incident. And on Tuesday, she decried the turn of events.
She’s “beyond disgusted,” Scott said, and planning a protest against the Weber County Attorney’s Office, which filed the charges against Bell.
“He was nowhere near those officers and anyone with eyes can see that Jamal assaulted no one,” Scott said. Authorities “know that they’re going to get sued — and they deserve to be sued for all of his injuries — and they’re doing this as a preemptive strike.”
Bell declined comment when asked about the possibility of suing. But he said he’s out of the hospital, living in Ogden, where he grew up. He’s confined to a wheelchair because of the injuries he sustained and getting physical therapy.
“I’m going to have injuries for life,” he said.
Charging documents give a written narrative of the incident, which were the only records available to the public as of Tuesday. Efforts to contact Weber County Attorney Christopher Allred for a copy of the full investigative report conducted by his office were unsuccessful as of Tuesday evening.
According to charging documents, Officers Nicholas Taylor and Trent Wilson were dispatched to a call of a domestic disturbance at 2510 N. Charleston Ave. to an unknown apartment. Two other officers were sent to the scene as well: Officers Frederick Mabrey and Ryan Watkins.
Taylor and Mabrey talked to the person who made the 911 call, who claimed that the occupants of an apartment, a man and a woman, were engaged in a “loud verbal argument” inside and outside of their apartment, according to the affidavit. The two were apparently engaged in a physical altercation as well, with the man allegedly grabbing the woman in a “bear hug” and the woman punching the man.
Taylor and Mabrey later found the apartment and saw that the front door was forced open, with the wooden door jam broken off the frame. The two reportedly pushed the door open but did not go inside. The two called out into the apartment and identified themselves as police, but no one responded. The two noted that they could see a knife on the floor as well as other items in the house that were knocked over onto the floor of the living room, according to the affidavit.
Later, the man — who would later be identified as Bell — walked out of the apartment’s hallway. He was allegedly carrying “two large knives, one in each hand, and what was described as a glare on his face,” according to charging documents.
Taylor took out the gun from his holster, and told Bell to drop the knives. Mabrey did the same. Both officers began walking backwards, and Bell allegedly approached the two “in a steady walk.” As they were backing up, Mabrey switched to his Taser. Bell turned around and went back into his apartment, then turned around to face the two. Mabrey then reportedly fired his Taser, which hit the apartment’s door and did not hit Bell. Police allege that Bell closed the door to avoid being hit by the Taser.
The officers again opened the door and commanded Bell to drop the knives. Bell did not verbally respond to the officers, but allegedly had knives in both hands as he put his arms out farther away from his sides.
Watkins and Wilson heard the yelling and approached the apartment to find the other two and ended up standing next to Taylor. Watkins and Wilson also began shouting to Bell to drop the knives. Moments later, the woman in the apartment attempted to talk to Bell, but police said they could not tell what she was saying. Officers told her to get back.
Watkins then yelled that if Bell took another step, the officers would shoot. Bell then turned his head toward the woman before taking two steps toward the officers, prompting them to fire. The officers were roughly eight feet away from Bell when they began shooting.
Police allege that Bell was told to drop the knives a total of 18 times prior to being shot.
Taylor, Watkins and Wilson fired their guns, while Mabrey was behind the three when they began to shoot. Mabrey did not fire his gun, but shot his Taser earlier.
Bell was taken to McKay-Dee Hospital to be treated for his injuries.
The woman in the apartment was interviewed by police shortly after the incident. She said that the two were in a relationship and Bell allegedly came home intoxicated when an argument broke out. During the argument, she allegedly told police that Bell had broken her phone, and at one point he allegedly picked her up in the parking lot and physically tried to bring her back into their apartment. She was able to break free and made it back into the apartment. Bell allegedly kicked the door open, breaking the door jam. She allegedly told police that Bell began breaking items in the apartment, and the total damage property was estimated to be around $500.
She told police that she and Bell were in the bedroom when they heard “other voices,” the affidavit says. Bell went out to the living room, and she followed after a little time had passed. She allegedly told police that she saw Bell holding the knives and the police telling him to drop them. She reportedly witnessed police try to Taser Bell, “but it did not work because he closed the door,” charging documents allege. The woman told police that she too told Bell to drop the knives before Bell took a step forward and officers shot him.
Harrisville Police Chief Maxwell Jackson told the Standard-Examiner that Mabrey was not placed on paid administrative leave following the incident.
However, Jackson said that Taylor, who did fire shots at Bell, has been back to work for nearly a month. Jackson said Taylor was cleared to return to duty after the Harrisville Police Department conducted their own internal investigation to see if Taylor had acted inappropriately.
Typically in larger police departments like the Ogden Police Department, officers involved in shootings are placed on paid administrative leave until the county attorney’s office have screened an officer of criminal charges, or ruled their actions are justified. Jackson said that smaller departments like his are not able to have one of their few officers sidelined for an extended period of time.
“We can’t afford that luxury,” Jackson said.
Bell is being charged with four counts of assault against a peace officer, a second-degree felony. Under criminal code, police specifically allege that Bell did, “commit an assault or threat of violence against a peace officer, with the knowledge that the person was a peace officer, when the peace officer was acting within the scope of his authority as a peace officer.”
Bell has yet to be given an initial appearance date set in Ogden’s 2nd District Court. A summons has been proposed to bring Bell to court, but has not been issued, according to court documents.