Shot by Police – Unnecessary Use of Deadly Force on the Rise

A quick search of the phrase “ shot by police ” results in a rising number of both state and nationwide cases where the unnecessary use of deadly force by law enforcement is questionable to say the least.

Shot by Police

Photo by: Joanna

Photo by: Joanna

According to the public Facebook page “Killed by Police”, 84 people lost their lives at the hands of law enforcement in the month of April. So Far, seven individuals have been shot by police in May and it is only the third day of the month. Some of the officer involved shootings resulted from police returning fire while others ensued from police opening fire on armed suspects after feeling threatened. Then there are the instances where unarmed individuals are shot by police and no one really understands why.

Birds of a feather

On April 20, 2017 a fugitive task force team in Arizona comprising of six different local and federal agencies was assembled to locate and arrest 25 year old Brandon Pequeno after he was involved in an altercation with an ex-girlfriend and presumably fled in her car. Police reports state Pequeno had multiple warrants and was “considered” armed and dangerous while they also “believed” he was driving a stolen vehicle. For these reasons, a barrage of reinforcements was called in. Police later revealed Pequeno was not armed and that not a single weapon was found in the vehicle.

“Fearing for their lives”

Shot by Police

Photo by: Matthrono

Police located the car Pequeno was driving which also contained two passengers in a small parking lot of an apartment building and ordered him to surrender. Pequeno refused and in an attempt to flee police, hit several cars within that parking lot. Officers then used their undercover vehicles to pin Pequeno in, making it impossible for him to continue doing damage to the parked cars in the lot. Then for reasons still unknown to many, officers opened fire on the car – the spray of bullets hurtling through the windows of the car, striking Pequeno and a 17 year old female passenger. The third passenger in the car was miraculously unharmed.

 

17 year old St. George native

Pequeno suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the chest that proved fatal and shortly after he arrived at a local hospital he was pronounced dead. The 17 year old female who was shot by police suffered at least one gunshot wound to the head, leaving her brain-dead. After unselfishly saving multiple lives through organ donation, the teen was taken off life support and died shortly after. The teenager, whose name is being withheld out of respect for her family, was a native to St. George, Utah. Numerous family members of the teen still live in the St. George area where they continue to await information as to why police would display an unnecessary use of deadly force that would take the lives of two individuals, one of which was an innocent child.

333 shot by police

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Photo by: Martin Fisch

Unfortunately, unnecessary use of deadly force by police appears to be on the rise. The 17 year old St. George native and Pequeno were not the only unarmed citizens shot by police this year. 397 people total have been killed by police in 2017 so far; most of them, including 3 Utah residents, suffering fatal gunshot wounds at the hands of police. A thorough and regularly updated article by the Washington Post states that 44 of those victims shot by police in 2017 were either unarmed, unknown, or in possession of a toy weapon. Only 173 were reported to be in possession of an actual firearm; the remaining were armed with knives, a vehicle, or other item that reportedly left police feeling fearful.

Last resort only

With the uptick in violent offenses against police, it is understandable that law enforcement officers may be on edge and fearful of their own injury or death. For this reason, police should be properly trained to handle situations coolly, without letting fear cause them to become trigger happy. We expect our men and women in blue to remain calm and collected in times of trouble and to be the ones we trust to keep us safe when dangerous situations arise. We hope their choice to use deadly force would be a last resort only.

“Double Jeopardy” is Constitutional in a Dual Sovereignty Case

A trio of southern Utah residents are being charged twice for the same crime, otherwise known as double jeopardy, but since the charges stem from a dual sovereignty case it is considered constitutional.

Custody battle ends in murder

Photo by: Joe Gratz

Photo by: Joe Gratz

After years of custody battles between 30 year old David Heisler and 32 year old Kelley Marie Perry, Heisler was awarded sole custody of their 6 year old daughter Mariah. Less than two weeks later, prosecutors state Perry drove to Heisler’s residence with her friends 56 year old Francis (Frank) Lee McCard and 54 year old Tammy Renee Freeman. When Heisler answered the door, Perry and McCard physically assaulted him, dragged him from his house, then the trio drove him in his own vehicle to the Arizona desert where his lifeless body was discovered eight weeks later.

Utah, Arizona, and the Federal Government

Perry, McCard, and Freeman have been charged in Utah on felony kidnapping, theft, and burglary charges. Since the crime began in Utah and ended in Arizona, it is considered a dual sovereignty case. So not only do the three face charges in Utah, but the state of Arizona has filed their own charges including a repeated charge of felony kidnapping as well as first degree murder which could carry the death penalty. Not only are Utah and Arizona involved, McCard has been federally indicted and an indictment is pending for Perry as well. This means they may face even more repeated charges but at a federal level to boot.

Dual sovereignty case is not double jeopardy

dual sovereignty

Photo by: Ron Cogswell

While a dual sovereignty case may seem like a way to be repeatedly prosecuted for the same crime (double jeopardy), it does not violate a person’s Fifth Amendment rights to not “be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”. This is due to what is known as dual sovereignty doctrine, meaning that more than one state or court has authority over the case. Although occasionally one state or court will give up their jurisdiction as long as the defendant is facing charges somewhere. This is not always the case though and it is important to know when dual sovereignty may take place. Dual sovereignty due to a multi-jurisdictional case can occur for a few different reasons. Those can include:

• When the crime occurs in more than one state. For example, the David Heisler murder which took place in both Utah and Arizona. This is also a common for crimes such as drug and sex trafficking.

• If there are civil and criminal charges, as they are not handled by different courts.

• When there are both state and federal charges. Both the state and the federal government can press charges in some cases. When this happens, the federal charges do not dissolve the charges from the state. This can result in someone serving time in federal prison followed by state prison or vice versa.

• If the crime occurred in a different state from whence the defendant or victim resides. This is a common occurrence with crimes involving identity theft such as fraud.

• If more than one federal court has filed charges against the defendant.

Defense lawyer(s) needed

When it comes to a dual sovereignty case, a person facing charges needs more help than usual. It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can work to help eliminate dual sovereignty in a case or who is willing and able to operate across state lines or work side by side with legal representation in other states or federal courts where other or repeated charges may exist. Anyone facing charges that may involve more than one state or court should speak with a defense attorney immediately.