Was it a police cover-up or was a police officer justified in killing a man? A Utah family has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the agencies involved to get the truth. They believe the departments intentionally ignored key evidence after a South Jordan officer shot and killed one of their family members.
Forty-one-year old Wade Pennington was killed in May of 2009 after being involved in a chase with South Jordan police officers. Based on dashcam videos of the chase and shooting, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and the West Jordan police department, who investigated the shooting, cleared the South Jordan officer who fired his gun.
But the family says, look and listen to the videos, and see if what the investigation says happened matches what's on tape.
On the night Wade Pennington died, you don't actually see him being shot, but you can hear it--two shots, fired from South Jordan police officer Jared Nichols.
Wade's brother, Dennis Pennington, says, "This stinks from start to the finish. There is no reason this should have ever happened."
Dennis is Wade's older brother, who showed us the dashcam videos.
He says, "A picture is worth a thousand words. Fortunately, we as a family have the video."
It starts when South Jordan Sgt. Allen Crist notices an SUV near businesses where burglaries have been happening. Crist goes after the vehicle, but the driver takes off, goes over a curb and gets away.
A short time later, officers Brett Perez and Nichols find the SUV. Wade Pennington is driving it; it's his girlfriend's SUV. Pennington had an extensive criminal history, but officers say they didn't know it was him.
Perez waves Nichols into a cul-de-sac where he thinks the driver will be cornered, but Pennington gets away, going right past Perez.
In later statements to an investigator, Perez says, "He almost hit me."
Nichols said he heard that on the radio, and goes after the SUV, thinking an attempted assault on an officer has happened.
"Speeds are coming up on 80 miles an hour," Nichols says.
The chase goes through red lights, over a fire hydrant and into another cul-de-sac, where Pennington again gets away.
In the original press release from West Jordan, it says Pennington "rammed two separate police vehicles." Later, Nichols tries to pit maneuver Pennington, but it doesn't work and says this on the radio: "He just tried to take me out again."
Pennington goes into another cul-de-sac where Nichols hits him, causing him to smash into a house. Perez also hits him, giving Nichols another chance to stop him, which he did.
That's when Perez gets out of his car and points his gun at Pennington, yelling at him to give up.
Officer Nichols then shoots him, three seconds after getting the SUV to stop.
Nichols can be heard shouting, "Freeze or I'll shoot you. Freeze! *Bang*Bang* Freeze. Wade, I'm going to shoot you, get down on the [expletive] ground."