Officer receives 4-year suspension after judge finds shooting in Parowan not justified

ST. GEORGE — The policeman who shot a woman in the knee during a confrontation at a Parowan truck stop last year was suspended from working as a police officer after a council found he was not justified in using deadly force.

Photo taken from body cam footage of Enoch Police Cpl. Jeremy Dunn involved in a police shooting in Parowan, Utah, June 28, 2018 | Footage courtesy of the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News / Cedar City News

Enoch City Police Cpl. Jeremy Dunn’s license to work as a law enforcement officer was suspended for four years, according to a decision handed down by the Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Council, held at the end of September.

An administrative law judge also found a “sustained allegation” of aggravated assault, but formal charges have not been filed by either Enoch City nor Iron County.

Dunn was a seven-year veteran of the Enoch City Police Department when the incident took place, for which “his agency did not take action against him,” even though the criminal investigation into the shooting found it to be “unjustified.”

The incident in question occurred June 28, 2018, when Dunn responded to the truck stop at 1130 North 100 West, at the north end of Parowan, to assist another officer during a call reporting a vehicle burglary in progress involving multiple suspects.

Video footage shows Dunn driving up to the scene, where Parowan City Police Sgt. Mike Berg is already holding two suspects at gunpoint in a parking lot at the northwest portion of the property. Approximately three minutes later, after deploying his Taser twice on the female suspect to no effect, Dunn fires his service pistol three times, hitting the woman in the leg. The report indicates that two bullets struck the woman in the right knee, while a third shot missed.

The woman, identified as Ivonne Casimiro, 29, of Las Vegas, was transported to the hospital for treatment of her injuries, after which she was booked into the Iron County Jail. She was charged with assault on a peace officer, interfering with an arrest, vehicle burglary and possessing or receiving a stolen vehicle.

A multi-agency task force “critical incident” investigation was conducted after the shooting while Dunn was placed on administrative leave. Using video footage, along with interviews and evidence collected, the task force found Dunn was not justified in using deadly force, while Enoch City officials issued an opposing press release saying Dunn’s actions did not violate police department policy.

“While the suspect was armed with a screwdriver and being non-compliant by failing to follow officer’s commands, including multiple commands to drop the screwdriver, it cannot objectively be stated that the officers or anyone else were in danger of death or serious bodily injury at the exact moment that lethal force was used,” Iron County Attorney Scott Garrett wrote in a letter relating his office’s findings to Enoch City Police Chief Jackson Ames in August 2018.

The eight-minute video of the incident obtained from the body camera that Dunn was wearing can be viewed by clicking here. Note: The video contains graphic content; viewer discretion is advised.

The task force’s findings were later supported by the findings of the administrative law judge who determined Dunn’s actions “violated the law” and found that the suspect made no threat toward either Dunn or the officer he was assisting or civilians, according to the court’s 15-page ruling handed down as part of the POST investigation.

The judge also found that “Dunn’s use of deadly force was not justified and therefore constituted aggravated assault,” according to the audio recording of the POST Council meeting held at the end of September.

The findings revealed that Dunn, immediately upon arrival, pointed his gun at the suspect and ordered her to drop the knife. Instead of complying, the suspect circled a small area while waving her arms around and talking, at which point Dunn approached the suspect, telling her he would “smoke her if she didn’t drop the weapon,” the judge noted in the findings.

“In this case, Dunn made a conscious, intentional decision to shoot the female suspect in the knee causing her bodily injury,” the judge states, noting that force can be justified under certain conditions. An objective analysis of the facts surrounding the incident shows threat “was not eminent” and the officer’s perceived justification in using deadly force “was not reasonable,” according to the judge, who deemed the officer’s actions “were not justified.”

And finally, the judge ruled that Dunn “is subject to the criminal statutes for his act and there is clear and convincing evidence that Dunn’s actions met all of the elements for the crime. ”

Those findings were then brought before the POST Council in September for review, which also included testimony from both Dunn and his attorney, Ashley Gregson, who addressed the council by going over the events of that day.

Gregson said her client responded to the gas station where there were several civilians present and that he knew while en route the suspect had an “edge weapon, a screwdriver” and the officer he responded to assist “was only partially prepared to handle the situation with only a firearm on him.”

She also said her client knew the suspect had already swung the screwdriver at the previous officer and was not complying to the officer’s commands and was pacing and “constantly approaching the officers” in a threatening manner.

Once he arrived on scene, he attempted to first use his taser to bring the suspect into compliance, but the thickness of the suspect’s clothing prevented him from effectively using it, Gregson said, adding that only later when the suspect made a second movement toward the officer did he fire his firearm at her knee.

She said Dunn chose the suspect’s knee instead of shooting her in her center of mass or other area that could have caused more significant injuries.

After summarizing the officer’s actions and the reasoning behind them, Gregson asked the council to ask themselves, “Does that sound like criminal behavior — does that sound like aggravated assault?”

“No, it doesn’t,” Gregson said in answer to her own question.

Instead, she said it was an officer on duty who was responding to a threat using what he believed to be a “reasonably lawful course to contain what he perceived was an immediate threat to protect himself and others.”

“There’s simply no evidence to suggest aggravated assault here,” she said, adding that Dunn would have had to have criminal intent to justify that charge.

A council member then questioned the attorney’s statement that just before Dunn fired the shot, the suspect approached him in a threatening manner, which Gregson said her client testified to. The member said that statement did not correspond to Dunn’s testimony, who stated “he did not have an independent recollection” of the suspect’s actions just before he pulled the trigger.

In Dunn’s statement, he admitted that he couldn’t recall what had happened just before the shooting during his initial interview, due to the traumatic incident he was just involved in. He then gave an impassioned statement saying that he loved his job and loved serving and protecting his community, and that the loss of being able to work for the last 15 months has been a humbling experience.

He repeated that he saw the suspect as an eminent threat and that preservation of life was a priority, adding that in retrospect, he realized there were things he could have done differently.

He closed with an emotional plea to the council to reinstate his job.

The council’s decision was to uphold the administrative law judge’s ruling, which they were required by law to do, and instead of a license revocation, the decision was to suspend the officer’s license for four years.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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