Probation for man in police standoff
A Grand Junction man who brandished a realistic-looking BB gun during a standoff with police last fall was sentenced to three years on probation Tuesday morning despite the prosecutor’s request for prison time.
Michael Angel Camacho was 20 in October when he was arrested on suspicion of first-degree assault on a peace officer and felony menacing at Monument Studios after being shot in the hand by a Grand Junction police corporal in what Mesa County prosecutor George Holley called an attempted “suicide by cop.”
Holley on Tuesday told District Judge Brian Flynn that Camacho’s situation illustrates a “gap in the law” that can make charging decisions difficult for prosecutors in suicide by cop cases.
Holley said during the hearing that his office doubted whether the first-degree assault on a peace officer charge — which requires that the defendant intended to cause serious bodily injury to the officer — could be proven in Camacho’s case. He eventually agreed to drop the more serious charge if Camacho would plead guilty to felony menacing, but asked that Camacho be sentenced to six years in prison.
“We do believe that this is a kind of case where this kind of conduct needs to be deterred in the community,” Holley said. “It needs to be met with prison time.”
Holley said suicide by cop cases put officers’ lives at risk, create a burden on law enforcement agencies and lead to trauma to officers involved. He said his office hopes state lawmakers will address the situation in the future by creating a new charging option along the lines of felony menacing against an officer.
Flynn said he couldn’t punish people “for a law that doesn’t exist,” and noted that Holley had said his office couldn’t prove first-degree assault. Flynn sided with Public Defender Kara Smith and sentenced Camacho to three years of probation, with credit for the nearly one year he has been in jail since the October 2016 incident.
District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said Tuesday he believes statewide law enforcement advocacy groups might lobby legislators in 2018 for a bill to address defendants who attempt suicide by cop.
“There definitely is a need for that sentence enhancer, because there’s too much disparity between a felony menacing currently and a first-degree assault on a peace officer,” Rubinstein said. “If you have somebody that’s just trying to do suicide by cop where they don’t intend to hurt the officer, they just try to get the officer to shoot them, then it’s not a first-degree assault. But menacing is too light.”
Rubinstein said actual or attempted suicide by cop cases are harmful not just to the defendant but to the police officers who respond.
“They’re causing substantial mental damage to these officers that they put in the position of having to shoot them,” he said.