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Utah man who shot would-be carjacker will not be charged

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who shot and killed a would-be carjacker outside a Utah grocery store will not face criminal charges, prosecutors have ruled.

The shooter acted within the bounds of Utah law when he intervened after hearing the screams of a woman whose car the suspect was trying to steal, the Utah County Attorney’s Office said in a statement distributed Friday.

The man, whose name is not being released, was lawfully carrying a concealed firearm on May 2 in a grocery store parking lot in Orem, about 40 miles south of Salt Lake City.

Prosecutors say the bystander shot Taulagi Matafeo, 26, once in the chest after Matafeo lunged and grabbed the man’s weapon. Matafeo died from the gunshot wounds.

The bystander was justified because he intervened in a forcible felony and acted to prevent death or serious injury to others, prosecutors said.

The decision is not surprising. Police and legal experts said after the shooting that the man would likely be cleared of wrongdoing since Utah allows the use of deadly force in many circumstances.

Utah is considered a gun-friendly state and was one of the first to pass a “Stand Your Ground”-style law more than 20 years ago.

Utah’s law was revised in 1994 to extend protections for use of deadly force in public without a duty to walk away — more than a decade before Florida passed its law in 2005, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. Since then, at least 30 states have enacted similar self-defense laws.

This shooting came just hours before a homeowner in nearby Pleasant Grove shot a man who pounded on his front door in the middle of the night, climbed to a second-floor balcony and attempted to force his way in, police said.

The Utah County Attorney’s Office has not yet announced a decision about charges in that case. Legal experts expect that man will also be cleared.

Gun violence prevention groups say “Stand Your Ground” laws create a dangerous standard that makes people believe it’s their duty to act like police.

But gun rights advocates say the two shootings show that Utah’s laws allow responsible gun owners to protect themselves and others.

Since 2007, Matafeo had been convicted of robbery, theft, assault and drug possession, according to Utah court records. Before he was fatally shot May 2, police say he had already assaulted a woman and stolen a pickup truck when he saw another woman’s SUV running with the door open.

Matafeo’s mother said the bystander “was someone who shot a defenseless man,” according to a statement released by police that didn’t include her name.

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