Police Killed a Handcuffed Man. Here's What Led to the Shooting.
12 Jul 2021
Bodycam footage obtained by The Salt Lake Tribune and FRONTLINE from the West Valley City Police in Utah, reveals what preceded a fatal, point-blank shooting of a handcuffed man — including the man’s denied requests for psychiatric help, which have never before been reported.
WARNING: This video contains graphic footage of a person being killed in police custody and strong language.
In the two years since Michael Chad Breinholt’s August 23, 2019, shooting death, the public has only seen a sliver of what happened in bodycam footage released by police. Now, this video draws on newly obtained bodycam footage to paint a fuller picture of what happened, showing how the encounter that would lead to Breinholt’s death began, and how officers’ handling of him turned fatal.
When police initially responded to a call about Breinholt, his girlfriend told police, “he told me he took, like, eight or nine pills,” and said Breinholt told her “he took all those pills so he’ll die.”Over the course of the next two hours, while booking Breinholt on DUI charges, police denied his requests for psychiatric help — at one point, leaving him lying on the floor for more than 11 minutes while waiting for a medical team’s review. Police did not inform the medics that he had taken pills possibly attempting to end his life.
Officers had already searched Breinholt for weapons, the footage reveals. But after a disoriented Breinholt began claiming he had a gun, an officer began grappling with him. Eventually, Breinholt was shot point-blank by police sergeant Tyler Longman while his hands were cuffed behind his back. One officer claimed Breinholt had grabbed his gun, although it was never removed from the holster.
“You’re about to die, my friend,” Longman said prior to firing the fatal shot.
The West Valley City Police Department found Sergeant Longman's use of deadly force within policy. As of July 12, 2021, the district attorney has not filed any charges.
This is the third person Sergeant Longman has killed while on duty. The previous two shootings in 2007 and 2008 were ruled legally justified.
This reporting is part of FRONTLINE’s partnership with The Salt Lake Tribune through the FRONTLINE Local Journalism Initiative. For more on this story, visit the Salt Lake Tribune’s website: https://www.sltrib.com/news/2021/07/12/video-west-valley-city/
Breinholt’s case will be featured in an upcoming FRONTLINE documentary premiering in the fall on PBS. The documentary is produced, written and directed by Abby Ellis and reported with The Salt Lake Tribune.
Produced & Edited by: Abby Ellis
Reporter: Jessica Miller, The Salt Lake Tribune
Additional Editing: Miles Alvord and Tessa Maguire
Music: Ty Gibbons
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Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Park Foundation; and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation, and additional support from Koo and Patricia Yuen. Additional support for this video was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Hollyhock Foundation.