Protesters demand firing, charges and jail for cop who murdered 20-year-old Utah Teamster
West Valley City, UT – Elijah Smith was desperately trying to put his right arm in the air in order to comply with police orders when a still-unnamed officer fired the shots that took his life. His left was already raised, and he posed absolutely no threat, according to body camera footage released after police caved to activist demands and recently made the video public.
Utah Against Police Brutality (UAPB) responded with a rally on April 21, where more than 50 supporters came out to demand that the cop be fired, charged and jailed for his crime. They shouted “No justice, no peace!” and “Community control now!” as they gathered on the steps of West Valley’s city hall.
A moment of silence was held for the 20-year-old Black man taken by police violence; his funeral was held the same day, attended by family and close friends.
“We need to feel the loss of those souls and come together to demand better,” said UAPB organizer Jade Arter. “For them, for us, for their children and for our children, for our future.”
Smith was murdered while seeking refuge from police who chased him as they searched for a suspect in an alleged robbery. Officials from the department say Smith matched the description of the suspect, though they have not specified exactly what that description was. His family believes that he ‘matched the description’ only because of the color of his skin.
As he fled in fear from a department known for its corruption, Smith entered two houses in the area of 3400 South and Redwood Road. Three WVC officers followed Smith into the second home, where an officer shot and killed him while he tried to comply with their orders to raise his hands. Officials say he ‘rapidly’ raised his right hand. Three unattended young children were present inside the home. Smith died at the scene.
Gabriella Killpack, a UPS co-worker of Smith, vowed to keep up the pressure on WVCPD until the killer cop is fired and charged.
Carly Halderman, an organizer with UAPB, called for real, comprehensive community control of police, including an elected body with the power to investigate shootings, subpoena testimony, fire killer cops, and oversee police policy.
“Why are police policing the police? It makes no sense,” Halderman said. “It is completely absurd that we would have them investigate themselves.”
Brown Berets activist Shirley Reyes spoke about how the continued killings of people of color is a reflection of continued racism. She called for all killer cops to be held accountable.
“Shame on that killer cop, and all those who shoot first and ask questions later,” she said. “We will be here to make sure every single trigger happy cop is held accountable for their actions!”
Black Lives Matter leader Lex Scott spoke about how authorities use police power to keep black and brown people oppressed, pointing out that a huge proportion of Ferguson, Missouri residents had active warrants at the time of Michael Brown’s murder in 2014. She said this is one way police keep people under control.
“When we hold this protest in front of West Valley City PD, it’s because we want them to hear this message and really see the power of the people,” she said.
Her speech was interrupted by a white supremacist shouting “White power!” from a nearby car. Protesters reacted with overwhelming shouts of “Fuck white supremacy!”
UAPB activist Francesca Ball ended the rally with a deeply emotional appeal to end police violence. She carried signs bearing the names of close to a dozen people killed by Utah police in recent years, people like Darrien Hunt, Patrick Harmon, Corey Kanosh, Dillon Taylor – and now Elijah Smith.
“How many more signs like this do we need to make?” she pleaded. “How many names? How many different names?”