Grand jury will probe fatal shot by trooper
A grand jury will consider criminal charges against a Colorado State Patrol trooper who fatally shot a man in July, Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said Monday.
“After review of the (critical incident team) investigation, I have questions about how a jury may view various issues involved,” Hautzinger wrote in a letter provided Monday to State Patrol Maj. Barry Bratt.
Interviewed on Monday, Hautzinger declined to specify which issues were in question.
“There’s not a great degree of factual dispute over what happened here but, as with every grand jury investigation, it’s entirely up to them as to who they want to hear from, and what witnesses they want to hear more from,” Hautzinger said.
Hautzinger received reports in the case in late August, just more than five weeks after 31-year-old Jason Alan Kemp was shot and killed in what the State Patrol called an “exchange” between Kemp and a trooper at a Redlands home. Hautzinger declined to identify the troopers involved, all of whom remain on paid administrative leave, and declined to answer questions about investigators’ conclusions on what happened in the incident.
The DA characterized troopers’ handling of the matter as “troubling.”
“A large part of the reason I’ve asked the grand jury for a review is because this is by far the most difficult, and troubling, situation that the critical incident team has investigated since it was put into existence in 2004,” Hautzinger said.
Mesa County’s critical incident team includes a collection of local law-enforcement officers. In Kemp’s case, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department was tabbed to be the lead agency in the investigation.
According to Hautzinger, the three troopers on paid leave each agreed to be interviewed by investigators and were otherwise cooperative with the probe.
“This has been a trying time for the members of the CSP in the Grand Valley,” Lt. Col. Anthony Padilla, the State Patrol commander for western Colorado, said in a prepared statement Monday night. “We will monitor this case closely and continue our full cooperation as it moves forward. We are confident that the thorough and comprehensive investigation conducted by the 21st Judicial District’s critical incident team will allow for a well-informed decision in this case by the grand jury.”
‘Hopeful for justice’
Kemp was shot July 20 after what witnesses described to The Daily Sentinel as a struggle at the front door of 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B. Several troopers approached, identified themselves and began pounding and kicking at the door while ordering those inside to open the door, witnesses have said. Kemp refused, demanding they get a search warrant.
Kemp was the suspected driver of a pickup involved in a traffic accident in front of a nearby home at 2501 South Broadway. Witnesses said Kemp had been drinking during a river trip earlier in the day and was among a group of men who walked back to the home after the crash. A witness, Ian Olson, 30, said Kemp was unarmed when he was shot, which happened after one of the troopers fired pepper spray inside through a small opening in the doorway.
Kemp died of a single gunshot wound to the chest.
His mother, Connie, said Monday the family was pleased by word of the grand jury probe and remained “hopeful for justice.”
“We do not want any other family to go through this kind of a nightmare,” said Connie Kemp, who, along with her husband, Keith, now lives in Georgia.
“I would like to think my son’s life meant something to this community,” she said.