Reports released Tuesday by the Racine County Sheriff’s Department confirmed that the shooting death of Rajko Utvic earlier this month by Racine police was justified.
As detailed by The Journal Times, statements made by the officers involved in the incident were made public for the first time, and from what they told investigators, Utvic left them no choice but to fire their weapons.
Racine police Chief Art Howell released a statement Tuesday thanking investigators for their due diligence and noting that despite officers feeling they had no choice and being justified in their actions, Utvic’s death is no less tragic.
“Although the investigative findings support the conclusion that the use of lethal force was justified, as law enforcement professionals, we are mindful that the outcome in this case is difficult for family members and friends of Mr. Utvic. Even when justified by legal intervention, the loss of life is no less tragic,” he wrote.
According to the reports, Utvic called 911 July 6 to report that he’d taken 100 ibuprofen pills, and when police arrived at his residence in the 3000 block of Durand Avenue, they found him armed with a knife and covered with a blanket. Utvic was also bleeding from several wounds deemed “significant.”
At least one of the officers had previous contact with Utvic and was at least aware of his history with mental illness.
Utvic came at officers with the knife raised and wouldn’t drop it when commanded several times. When he refused to drop his knife and tasers from both officers failed to stop him, one of the officers fired five times, hitting Utvic three times.
Howell pointed out in his statement that officers do undergo Crisis Intervention Training, which helps equip police with the skills to more effectively handle individuals with mental illness. The officers involved in Utvic’s shooting had not undergone that training, but Howell said they had in-service training on how to deal with residents suffering from mental illness and also on how to deal with individuals who are armed. Still, sometimes training can’t eliminate the need for deadly force.
“While the Racine Police Department has committed to increasing the number of officers who receive specialized Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), we acknowledge that such training cannot eliminate the need to exercise lethal force when confronted with the threat of deadly force against citizens or police personnel, as was the case on July 6, 2014,” he said.
Racine County District Attorney Rich Chiapete on July 14 determined the shooting to be “legal, justified and necessary.”