Local State Patrol saga 
needs fitting conclusion

Now that a negotiated settlement has been preliminarily agreed upon in the 2010 shooting death of Jason Kemp that involved two former Colorado State Patrol troopers, it appears the legal issues involved in this tragic case are nearly at an end.

We hope that CSP leaders in Denver will now quickly conclude their investigation into the Fruita State Patrol troop, take whatever administrative actions they deem necessary and assure residents of this region that the CSP here is operating at the highest levels of professionalism.

Kemp was shot during a July 2010 investigation of suspected drunk driving on his part. Two State Patrol officers tried to force their way into Kemp’s home without a warrant and, according to some court testimony, without probable cause. Kemp was shot as he scuffled with a trooper at his front door.

Trooper Ivan “Gene” Lawyer, who shot Kemp, was found not guilty of the most serious criminal charges against him (the jury could not reach a verdict on several lesser charges) during a trial in Mesa County earlier this year.

Based on that outcome, the district attorney decided not to proceed with prosecution of the second officer involved, Cpl. Kirk Firko.

Both men have since been fired by the State Patrol. However, a federal wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Kemp’s family in 2011 against the two men, as well as Sgt. Chad Dunlap of the Fruita troop and other CSP officials.

As part of that case, a federal judge wrote earlier this year that the two troopers had violated Kemp’s Fourth Amendment constitutional protections against illegal search and seizure when they attempted to force their way into his home and used unnecessary force in the process.

It was the mediated settlement of that lawsuit which was announced last week by attorneys for both Kemp’s family and the State Patrol. The amount of the settlement has not been disclosed.

Kemp’s death was the most high-profile of several incidents involving local CSP troopers in recent years. Among the others was the revelation that one former trooper falsified official investigation reports — sometimes adding information from entirely different incidents — presumably to make his cases against suspected drunk drivers.

We continue to believe that most of the troopers working out of the Fruita State Patrol office are careful and conscientious law enforcement personnel.

But there have been enough incidents of late to raise questions about oversight, training and CSP policies in general. That’s why CSP Chief James Wolfinbarger launched an investigation of the troop earlier this year.

We hope, once the lawsuit settlement is finalized, the investigation can be concluded, the results made public and this unfortunate chapter in the history of the State Patrol in this region can be closed.


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