DA: Woman shot nine times was killed in self-defense
District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said Thursday that he will not file criminal charges in the November shooting death of a Pear Park woman, saying she was shot nine times in self-defense.
Crystal Nash, 42, was killed around 2:20 a.m. on Nov. 1 in the driveway at 3007 Rood Ave., after what Hautzinger on Thursday described as an alcohol-fueled confrontation between Nash and a neighbor. A man in his 20s, who has not been identified by authorities, also was wounded.
“In declining to file criminal charges here, I do not intend to condone or endorse anything that happened,” Hautzinger wrote in a letter sent Thursday to Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey. “I certainly believe that neighborhood disputes are usually better resolved without firearms being involved.”
According to Hautzinger’s letter, Nash, who was host of a party running into the predawn hours of Nov. 1 at her home at 438 Colorow Drive, walked to a neighbor’s home, upset and believing the neighbor had called deputies to her home earlier in the evening.
Deputies responded to 438 Colorow Drive for what initially was reported as a possible domestic violence incident, but they left the area after concluding there was no crime.
Nash, whose blood-alcohol level was .184 percent, was armed with a Ruger handgun when she walked to her neighbor’s home, Hautzinger wrote. Nash pounded on the neighbor’s door, while the homeowner grabbed his semiautomatic .22-caliber handgun and hid it behind his back.
“He asked her if she had a gun, and she told him that she did and that she was going to use it,” Hautzinger’s letter says.
The man kept his gun hidden behind his back and told her to put her gun down.
“Ms. Nash responded with another obscenity and brought her gun up across her body toward” the neighbor, Hautzinger wrote. The man then shot Nash, emptying all nine rounds in the clip of his handgun. Nash was hit nine times.
The neighbor told Sheriff’s Department investigators he thought he was going to die when Nash raised her gun.
“In order to file any charges against (homeowner) I would need to be convinced I could prove he had no reasonable belief that he was in imminent danger of being killed or of suffering great bodily injury,” reads Hautzinger’s letter. That conclusion, he said, would be “impossible” to reach.
State law on self-defense says persons defending themselves may, among other things, “use a degree of force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for that purpose.”
Are nine shots a reasonable response?
“I can’t say it’s unreasonable,” Hautzinger said in an interview Thursday.
In weighing self-defense issues, Hautzinger said he looks for comparable levels of force.
“It’s unreasonable to respond to a slap in the face with a bazooka,” he said. “Here, we’re talking guns on guns.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how the unnamed man in his 20s was shot on Nov. 1, which Hautzinger described as a minor flesh wound.
Nash never fired her gun, and no other shots were discovered other than the homeowner’s, Hautzinger said.
Nash’s death is one of two recent cases reviewed by Hautzinger’s office with possible self-defense issues.
Authorities still are investigating a Nov. 28 incident in downtown Grand Junction when a man was shot by a sworn National Parks Service officer.
The officer, who lives at 610 Gunnison Ave., called 911 just after 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 28 to report an intruder at his home.
Police have said the parks officer told the alleged intruder to leave after he was banging on the officer’s front door. The man allegedly tried to enter a back door and was told to leave again.
The parks officer then followed the man outside around the side of the home, before the alleged intruder was shot once in the chest.
Grand Junction police said last month the alleged intruder “may have lunged” at the officer, who called 911 a second time to report the shooting.
Nash’s homicide is the first in at least five years in Mesa County not involving police to be ruled as self-defense and result in no criminal charges.