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Officer justified in shooting man who fired at police after a motorcycle crash

Salt Lake County prosecutors have ruled Friday that an officer was legally justified in shooting a man who fired a gun at him and attacked the officer’s partner.

The shooting occurred Sept. 17, 2020 after motorcyclist Eric Pectol ran a red light and a truck hit him.

Unified Police Department Officer Jason Hudgens saw the crash at the intersection of 4500 South and 2300 East and ran over to investigate. The situation devolved into a fight when Pectol said he had a gun and then ran into a nearby field.

Officer Charles Saulnier, who came across the crash moments after Hudgens did, described the fight as the most aggressive he’d seen his partner get into, “like swinging, trying to block the hits, everything.”

Hudgens, who’d pulled his gun early in the fight but holstered it for his Taser, lost his gun when he fell after Pectol charged him. Pectol, who’d lied about having a gun, picked it up, Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill wrote in his findings letter.

At one point, Pectol pointed the gun at Hudgens. Gill said evidence shows Pectol also fired at Saulnier. The bullet missed Saulnier and traveled to a third floor apartment east of the intersection, shattering a sliding glass door, the letter said.

Saulnier fired back, hitting Pectol four times. Pectol survived and denied firing Hudgens’ gun.

“Mr. Pectol unlawfully presented an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury when he disarmed Officer Hudgens and picked up his firearm, when he pointed Officers Hudgens’ firearm at Officers Hudgens, and,” Gill wrote, “when he pointed and shot the firearm at Officer Saulnier.”

Pectol was on parole at the time and is back in custody at the Utah State Prison, jail records show.

In later interviews with investigators, Pectol said he was feeling suicidal the day of the shooting because he rolled his vehicle six days earlier, seriously injuring and paralyzing his girlfriend.

“I never wanted to hurt him,” Pectol said. “I wanted him to kill me.”

The Salt Lake Tribune will update this story.

Editor’s note: If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or the UNI CrisisLine at 801-587-3000.

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