Trooper, DA clash; closing arguments this afternoon
In a contentious exchange with prosecutors, Colorado State Patrol trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer this morning said the fatal shooting of Jason Kemp in 2010 didn’t have to happen.
In nearly the same breath, Lawyer said he handled the matter consistent with his training and wouldn’t have done anything differently. Moreover, Lawyer expressed bewilderment Kemp’s death resulted in criminal charges against him.
‘“You don’t believe a jury should be ruling on your actions, fair enough?” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger asked.
“Fair enough,” Lawyer responded.
Lawyer’s testimony ran over two hours as the defense rested around 11 a.m. Closing arguments are scheduled for 1 p.m. in District Court Judge Richard Gurley’s courtroom. The jury should start deliberations late this afternoon.
Lawyer is charged with criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, illegal discharge of a firearm and first-degree criminal trespass, plus misdemeanor counts of prohibited use of a weapon and criminal mischief.
Telling the jury at one point, “I can’t say it had to happen,” Lawyer explained he only followed his training.
“If I had that same scenario — with corporal (Firko) …. I mean I wouldn’t do anything differently,” Lawyer said.
While not explicitly blaming his partner, Firko, for the escalation of the events at Kemp’s front door, Lawyer suggested things might have gone better had Firko not showed up.
“I’m not saying I’m not a team player or anything, but I work very well by myself … I’m able to develop rapport with drunks,” Lawyer said.
“I’d rather have responded by myself,” Lawyer said of Firko. “I didn’t know he was coming to the scene.”
Lawyer and Firko were investigating a non-injury suspected drunken-driving accident on July 20, 20100, at Kemp’s home at 103 Glade Park Road, unit B. A witness told Lawyer that a male driver, shirtless and wearing plaid shorts, who appeared unsteady and possibly drunk, had crashed his pickup truck. The truck was high-centered on a large berm in the front yard of a home on South Broadway, but the driver was able to free the truck and return it the short distance to 103 Glade Park Road, unit B, and went back inside the home. There was minimal property damage.
Lawyer said the witness description alone was enough to knock on the door at the home, which they did.
Fast forward in the sequence of events — all of which took place in roughly two minutes from the first point of contact until Kemp was shot — Lawyer said things changed when he was at the back of Kemp’s house and when he said he heard a dog yelp and Firko yelling.
Lawyer said he ran along the side to the front of the house, where he said he saw Kemp and Firko “engaged physically.” Lawyer testified Kemp had briefly stepped out the threshold of his front door, before eluding Firko’s grasp and slamming the door in their faces.
Hautzinger noted in cross-examination yesterday Lawyer didn’t explain any such events during interviews with Mesa County Sheriff’s Department and the Critical Incident Team (CIT) investigating Kemp’s death, or, when Lawyer testified before a Mesa County grand jury.
Lawyer today testified they had cause to enter the home because Kemp had assaulted Firko.
On cross examination, Lawyer acknowledge that Firko didn’t say he was injured, nor did Lawyer see any injuries.
Obvious injuries to the officer might have meant probable cause for a felony assault charge against an officer, Hautzinger noted.
Read the full story in Wednesday’s Daily Sentinel.