UPDATE: Troopers’ pay suspended after indictments
Two Colorado State Patrol troopers under indictment in the shooting death of a Redlands man have been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of their criminal cases, the Colorado State Patrol said this evening.
Ivan “Gene” Lawyer and Kirk Firko had been on paid administrative leave since the July 20 shooting death of Jason Kemp. The State Patrol said in a news release their new status, unpaid but still employed, is consistent Colorado state personnel board rules.
“Any loss of life is tragic and our thoughts are with the Kemp family,” Col. James Wolfinbarger, chief of the Colorado State Patrol, was quoted in the release. “At the same time, we remain concerned about our members. This is a very difficult time, especially for those who serve in the Grand Valley. The job of a law enforcement officer is extremely complex. Every day officers across this country are faced with situations that require split-second decisions that may have life or death consequences. I am fully confident in our judicial process and now, more than ever, it is important not to rush to judgment, by remaining objective and allowing the process to run its due course.”
Kemp was fatally shot after Lawyer and Firko had repeatedly kicked and pounded at the door of 103 Glade Park Road, unit B, in the investigation of a traffic accident, according to indictments unsealed Thursday.
“With his gun drawn,” reads a grand jury indictment, “Trooper (Ivan ‘Gene’) Lawyer stepped back and kicked at the door. The door gave way, swinging open. Against the darkness of the room, Trooper Lawyer observed the darkness of Jason Kemp standing upright alongside the door. Trooper Lawyer observed Mr. Kemp lift and extend his arm upward as if he was pointing a gun at Trooper Lawyer, but Trooper Lawyer could not see Kemp’s hands.”
Lawyer told the grand jury he saw a flash, and believed he had been shot. He fired one round into Kemp’s chest, then performed CPR before Kemp was pronounced dead.
Kemp was unarmed.
Lawyer was charged with felony counts of criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, criminal trespass, illegal discharge of a firearm, misdemeanor counts of prohibited use of a weapon and criminal mischief.
The most serious charge, second-degree assault, is a Class 4 felony carrying a mandatory minimum 5 years in prison upon conviction. While presented with the option, the grand jury declined to charge Lawyer with second-degree murder or the lesser charge, manslaughter.
Cpl. Kirk Firko, described by witnesses to The Daily Sentinel as the man who joined Lawyer in attempt to force entry at Kemp’s home while investigating a traffic accident, was indicted on two counts of first-degree criminal trespass, two counts of attempted first-degree criminal trespass and criminal mischief.
A third State Trooper who was at the scene, Sgt. Chad Dunlap, was not charged by the grand jury.
Kemp was shot around 8 p.m. July 20 in the doorway of 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B, after what multiple witnesses described to The Daily Sentinel days after the incident as a confrontation at the doorway involving Kemp and two troopers, who pounded and kicked at the door. Kemp refused to open the door and demanded they get a warrant, and was unarmed when he died, witnesses said.
Indictments unsealed Thursday said Lawyer was first officer on the scene after a traffic accident involving a pickup towing a jet ski, which was reported around 7:40 p.m. near the front yard of 2501 South Broadway. Three intoxicated individuals were seen trying to flee the area, the indictments said. Lawyer and Kirk, who confirmed minor property damage, were directed by witnesses to nearby 103 Glade Park Road, unit B, where the vehicle, trailer and jet ski were parked.
“Although not discussed between the troopers, both officers believed time was of the essence to secure a chemical test for the purposes of securing evidence for driving under the influence of alcohol,” the indictments said.
Read the full story in Friday’s Daily Sentinel.