Fruita cops cleared in fatal shooting
A trio of Fruita police officers “had no choice” but to shoot a man when he pulled a handgun from behind his back and pointed it after commands to drop the weapon, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said today.
Hautzinger formally cleared Fruita Sgt. Kevin Paquette and officers Andrew Courtney and Steve Lenz, in the June 15 shooting death of 61-year-old Lewis Pollard in the front yard of his home at 159 Hollyberry Way.
It was the violent end to a possible alcohol-fueled encounter in which Pollard fled from a police traffic stop after espousing anti-government, “sovereign-citizen” ideology while reasoning he “didn’t need” a driver’s license, the DA wrote in a letter to Fruita Police Chief Mark Angelo.
“I conclude that none of the officers involved did anything to unreasonably provoke or exacerbate the situation,” Hautzinger wrote. “Indeed, I believe their actions were exemplary and entirely consistent with reasonably protecting themselves and the people of this community.”
Eleven spent cartridges were recovered from the scene of the shooting, all belonging to the Fruita officers, Hautzinger wrote. Five rounds struck Pollard, causing injuries described in an autopsy report by forensic pathologist Dr. Robert Kurtzman as “rapidly fatal.”
The autopsy showed Pollard was intoxicated and registered a blood-alcohol level of .126 percent. Pollard was drinking at a Fruita bar from approximately 8:30 p.m. on June 14 until around 12:20 a.m. on June 15.
Pollard’s Ford Ranger was stopped around 12:41 a.m. on June 15 at Highway 340 near Jurassic Avenue after Officer Courtney observed several traffic violations, including a failure to signal lane changes and failure to stop at a stop sign, according to the DA’s letter. Officer Courtney encountered a man who, “was quickly somewhat hostile and uncooperative.”
“He told Officer Courtney that he did not need a driver’s license, that he had committed no felony offenses and that Officer Courtney had no authority to detain him,” Hautzinger wrote.
Read the full story in Thursday’s Daily Sentinel.