Fmr. officer talks impact of police shootings

Posted at 10:52 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-02 00:52:36-05

Now that the names of the deputies involved in the shooting death of Council rancher Jack Yantis are known, they are clearly facing greater scrutiny.

And other law enforcement personnel who've faced the aftermath of officer involved shootings say it's a scrutiny that can tear lives apart.

Victor Rodriguez who had 40 years law enforcement experience was forced to shoot a man in a frightening attack in 1976.  And even though it was found to be justified, it's an event that impacts him to this day.

"There was a guy with a shotgun intent on killing me and my friend, my fellow deputy."

That was the scene as described by Rodriguez inside the Bonneville County Sheriff's Office 40 years ago.
And despite the public location, people still questioned why Rodriguez used deadly force.

"They did.  They did," says Rodriguez. "And that part is frustrating for officers because that's all they're hearing, three months of investigation.  You could have done something different.  Why didn't you do something different?"

He says an investigation cleared him and his partner but until then, he got everything from doubt to death threats.

"My family had a difficult time with that," says Rodriguez.  "They did.  My wife and children.  But as time goes on things get easier."

Not that he'll ever forget taking a man's life.

“You never really get over it.  It's always in the back of my mind."

Bottom line, Rodriguez says, police are trained to protect life, not take it, and given that, he says it's important for the public to reserve judgement on shooting cases until they hear all the facts.

"Keep your mind open to everything you've seen and heard," suggests Rodriguez.  "Not a one-sided thing like the media does.  All will come out soon."

In a bizarre twist, Rodriguez says years after he was forced to kill the man, the man's son, seeking revenge, attacked him.  The son was shot but didn't die and was thrown in jail.