Judge denies troopers’ immunity claim in fatal Redlands shooting in July 2010

Two Colorado State Patrol troopers charged in the 2010 slaying of Redlands resident Jason Kemp do not have legal immunity from prosecution, Mesa County District Judge Richard Gurley said in a ruling handed down Friday.

Denver attorney Harvey Steinberg argued that his client, State Patrol Cpl. Kirk Firko, believed there was probable cause to arrest Kemp on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol on July 20, 2010, and acted in accord with his duties as a law enforcement officer.

The Mesa County District Attorney’s Office rejected the argument. An attorney representing Firko’s codefendant, Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, joined the motion filed by Steinberg.

Gurley, however, ruled the arguments are “without merit.”

“(Ivan) Lawyer might have an affirmative defense for execution of a public duty which may be raised at trial,” Gurley wrote in the ruling. “However, it does not follow that he is immune from prosecution.”

The District Attorney’s Office also rejected the suggestion the troopers had probable cause to arrest Kemp before Kemp was fatally shot in the doorway of his home at 103 Glade Park Road, Unit B.

“The People would further note that accepting the Defendant’s argument here would essentially amount to a determination that any actions taken by police officers while on duty and in uniform are immune from criminal prosecution, regardless of how illegal those actions are,” District Attorney Pete Hautzinger wrote in response.

A grand jury indictment alleges Lawyer and Firko attempted illegal entry into Kemp’s home without a warrant for securing evidence as they investigated a drunken-driving incident in which Kemp was the suspected driver. Kemp was shot once in the chest following a struggle at the door with the troopers.

A motions hearing that had been slated for Friday was rescheduled Wednesday to Feb. 24. Gurley has yet to rule on a motion to suppress Firko’s statements made to Mesa County Sheriff’s Department investigators during the investigation of Kemp’s death. The motion has been pending since Sept. 15.

The troopers are scheduled for a two-week trial starting April 2.


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