Police Officer Shot Man Dead for Peeing, Mother Claims in Court
SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A Utah sheriff's deputy saw a man peeing by the side of a road, then chased him at low speed and shot him to death, the man's mother claims in court.
Carolyn Clark sued Box Elder County, its Sheriff's Department and two deputies, including Officer Austin Bowcutt, in Federal Court. She claims Bowcutt shot and killed her son, Troy Burkinshaw, in October 2012.
"On the evening of Oct. 26, 2012, Box Elder County sheriff's deputy Austin Bowcutt stopped Troy Clark Burkinshaw (age 52) on westbound SR-13, after he allegedly observed Troy urinating on the side of the highway," the complaint states. "Before the traffic stop was complete, Troy drove away and headed toward his home. Deputy Bowcutt called for backup and initiated a pursuit.
"Troy traveled mostly at low speeds through an agricultural/residential area, at one point repeatedly circling the same block. Troy eventually turned down a dead end road. Deputy Bowcutt attempted to block the exit with his police truck while Troy attempted to edge his car around the police truck.
"Without waiting for backup to arrive, Deputy Bowcutt exited his truck with his weapon drawn, placed himself in front of Troy's car, and shouted for Troy to stop. Deputy Bowcutt then fired three shots directly into the car, two of which struck Troy in the chest, killing him.
"Less than 7 minutes expired between the time Troy left the traffic stop to the time deputy Bowcutt fired the fatal shots."
Clark claims Bowcutt had a number of options, but failed to use any of them, including shooting or slashing the tires of her son's Volkswagen Jetta, de-escalating the situation or disengaging from the chase.
The complaint does not state how a law enforcement might de-escalate from a peeing situation.
Bowcutt did not wait for backup before killing her son, Clark says.
The complaint tells the story again: "As defendant Bowcutt was traveling eastbound on SR-13, he observed what he believed to be Mr. Burkinshaw urinating on the side of the road off the westbound lane, just east of the city of Corinne, Utah.
"By the time defendant Bowcutt had turned his truck around and crossed onto westbound SR-13, Troy had gotten back in his car and driven off.
"Defendant Bowcutt pulled up behind Troy's dark blue Jetta, turned on the truck's overhead lights, and initiated a traffic stop.
"Troy pulled over as required.
"Defendant Bowcutt claimed that he smelled alcohol and observed a brown paper bag in the back of the Jetta while he was speaking to Troy.
"Defendant Bowcutt then returned to his truck leaving Troy in the Jetta.
"While Defendant Bowcutt was in his truck, Troy started up the Jetta and drove away at a low rate of speed."
Bowcutt called for backup and identified Burkinshaw by full name during the 5-minute chase, with the men "occasionally reaching speeds of 40 mph," Clark says in the complaint.
"Defendant Bowcutt encountered no pedestrians and only one other vehicle during the pursuit, a car that was entering SR-13 as they were exiting.
"Defendant Bowcutt followed Troy through agricultural and residential areas and ended up following him around the same block several times.
"Troy eventually turned down a dead end road where defendant Bowcutt attempted to block the exit with his police truck.
"Approximately four seconds later, defendant Bowcutt jumped out of his truck with his gun drawn and shouted at Troy to stop and get out of the car.
"Troy attempted to drive around the truck, but was driving so slowly that defendant Bowcutt walked up to the Jetta, voluntarily stepped directly in front of it, and continued to shout at Troy with his gun drawn and pointed at Troy through the windshield.
"Defendant Bowcutt continued shouting and walked backwards as the car moved forward at an extremely low rate of speed for approximately seven seconds.
"Defendant Bowcutt then fired three shots from his gun, point blank into the car's windshield.
"Two of the bullets struck Mr. Burkinshaw in the chest, killing him.
"At no point during these events did Troy drive in an aggressive manner or do anything that posed a risk of death or serious physical injury to defendant Bowcutt or the general public."
Burkinshaw was traveling with his girlfriend's dog when he was killed, Clark says.
"After the shooting, the Jetta rolled off the road and into a bush.
"Defendant Bowcutt returned to his vehicle, with lights and siren running, and repositioned it behind the Jetta.
"Approximately one minute after the shooting, defendant Bowcutt walked calmly from his truck to the Jetta, broke open the driver's side window, and opened the driver's side door, at which point the dog jumped out and sat near the car.
"For the next two minutes or so, defendant Bowcutt kept reaching into the Jetta and repeatedly shouted 'Stay with me!' after which defendant Bowcutt simply stood by and waited for backup," the complaint states.
"At no time did defendant Bowcutt provide any first aid assistance to Troy.
"Approximately six minutes after the shooting, additional offices arrived, removed Troy from the car, placed him on the ground, and began first aid.
"Shortly thereafter, Troy was pronounced dead at the scene."
Clark seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, willful misconduct and civil rights violations.
She is represented by James McConkie with Parker & McConkie.