Armed Utah Resident Threatens Use of Deadly Force to Stop Men Fleeing Police

An armed southern Utah resident threatened use of deadly force to stop two men from fleeing police.

Armed Utah resident

Photo by: Adam Bailey

A resident in the small town of Leeds, Utah which is located 16 miles north of St. George heard a large noise on his property and went to investigate. The resident discovered two men had crashed into his fence while fleeing from police. The Leeds homeowner who was armed with a personal firearm threatened use of deadly force to keep the men detained by gunpoint until a law enforcement officer was able to take them under arrest.

Helpful, but was it justified?

The homeowner was likely alarmed by the pair of men crashing into his fence, however was he justified brandishing a firearm to keep the men from fleeing again? Fortunately for all parties involved, the pair fleeing police did not attempt to continue running or threaten the homeowner in any way. Authorities arrived shortly after and the two were booked into Purgatory Correctional Facility on a variety of misdemeanor and felony charges. Had the men tried to leave however, would the homeowner have been justified to use deadly force? Is leaving the scene a reason to defend oneself?

Threatening force in defense of person

Utah Code 76-2-402 states: “A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that force or a threat of force is necessary to defend the person or a third person against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.” Someone crashing into a fence may be startling at first, however unless more aggressive actions were taken, it likely would not necessitate threatening use of using deadly force against the other party for them merely attempting leaving the scene. Luckily in this case, deadly force was not used and the home owner was seen as an outstanding citizen for remaining calm while helping police.

Utah laws regarding firearms

Utah residents are encouraged to study Utah laws regarding firearms, so they will know for certain:

• where they are allowed to carry firearms,
• when they are allowed to brandish a weapon; and
• When they are justified in using deadly force.

Anyone facing charges for improper use of a firearm should seek legal counsel.

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.

Deadly Force Justified in Utah- Legally Defending Self and Home

The majority of states have laws in place that protect residents and homeowners if they ever need to use deadly force while defending their self or home. Since the laws differ from state to state, it is important for individuals to understand exactly what their rights are in their state if they feel threatened by another person.

Stand your ground

frankieleon

frankieleon

Many states including Utah have a law in place that allows a person to use deadly force to defend themselves against an attacker as long as they are someplace where they are legally allowed to be and not voluntarily in a relationship with the attacker. This is called a Stand Your Ground law. According to Utah Code 76-2-402, “A person is justified in using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”

Duty to Retreat

Photo by: bark

Photo by: bark

Other states that do not have Stand Your Ground laws may have a contrary rule called Duty to Retreat. While Utah doesn’t have Duty to Retreat laws presently, there is discussion about it in the future. Duty to Retreat laws require that individuals make an effort to leave a situation in which they feel in danger or threatened. If a person tries to retreat but is unable to get away successfully, then they are justified in using deadly force to keep themselves from being harmed. If the threatened individual makes it inside their own home, the laws again differ depending on what state they are in. Some states argue that a home is a “safe zone” and therefore once inside, the threatened individual cannot use deadly force to protect themselves. This is not the case in Utah, as they have laws to justify homeowners who use deadly force if they are threatened when at home.

Castle Doctrine

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Photo by: Steam Pipe Trunk Distribution Venue

Castle laws, otherwise known as Castle Doctrine are laws that allow homeowners to protect their self and home from threatening individuals who are attempting to break into their residence. Utah has a version of castle doctrine in place called “force in defense of habitation”. There are stipulations about how and when this would apply however. Utah Code 76-2-405 states that a resident is justified in using deadly force when:
“He reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other’s unlawful entry into or attack upon his habitation; however, he is justified in the use of force which is intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury only if:

(a) the entry is made or attempted in a violent and tumultuous manner, surreptitiously, or by stealth, and he reasonably believes that the entry is attempted or made for the purpose of assaulting or offering personal violence to any person, dwelling, or being in the habitation and he reasonably believes that the force is necessary to prevent the assault or offer of personal violence; or

(b) He reasonably believes that the entry is made or attempted for the purpose of committing a felony in the habitation and that the force is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony.

(2) The person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed for the purpose of both civil and criminal cases to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury if the entry or attempted entry is unlawful and is made or attempted by use of force, or in a violent and tumultuous manner, or surreptitiously or by stealth, or for the purpose of committing a felony.”

Utah’s Castle Doctrine also applies to any building or structure that is attached to the property where someone may be inside such as a garage or a shed. Deadly force is not justified during the theft of personal property unless someone is inside that property and feels threatened such as a carjacking of a vehicle that is occupied.

Be informed about defense rights

Photo by: F Deventhal

Photo by: F Deventhal

It is important to study and be informed about rights regarding defending self or home. Therefore if the time ever came that an individual felt the need to use deadly force, they would feel confident in defending their actions. For those who are up-to-date about laws regarding when it’s acceptable to legally defend self or home, a criminal defense attorney would still be a wise addition to any criminal proceeding regarding justified use of deadly force.