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Use of force ruled not justified after officer shot burglary suspect in Parowan

Posted at 7:39 AM, Aug 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-07 15:20:15-04

IRON COUNTY, Utah -- The Iron County Attorney has determined an officer who shot and wounded a woman suspected in a car burglary in Parowan in June was not legally justified, but they say the officer will not face criminal charges.

The Iron County Attorney's Office released the findings of their investigation Monday regarding the shooting that occurred June 28.

According to the letter from the Iron County Attorney's Office, police responded to the T/A truck stop around 11:34 a.m. that day on report of suspects breaking into vehicles.

Police say there were several suspects in the burglary and that one of them, Ivonne Casimiro, had taken several swipes at a responding officer while wielding a screwdriver but did not make contact with any of the strikes.

That officer, Sgt. Berg, was able to create space between them and said he was "in good shape" and conversing with the suspect, whom he said was not making a lot of sense as she talked.

A short time later, Cpl. Jeremy Dunn of Enoch City Police arrived on scene, and within 3 minutes of his arrival he notified dispatch that shots had been fired and EMS was needed.

The shooting was captured on Dunn's body camera and shows him arriving on scene and approaching two of the suspects who were outside, including Casimiro.

The letter states Berg explains to Dunn that Casimiro won't drop the screwdriver, and Dunn immediately engaged the woman and told her to put it down.

The woman refuses and there is an exchange of heated words. At one point the woman tells Dunn to "go ahead and blow" as she refused to drop the screwdriver, and Dunn tells the woman he will "smoke her" if she doesn't comply.

The exchange continues and Casimiro remains defiant and combative, according to the letter. At that time Berg told Dunn the suspects were 10-96, indicating mental health issues.

At that point Dunn says to Berg "I can take her out like last time. Do you want me to take her out like last time?"

The pair later told investigators Dunn was referencing a shooting in 2012 that involved both officers in which Dunn shot a male suspect who was advancing while armed with knives.

At that time Berg responds and tells Dunn to use his Taser, and Dunn does so. However, the Taser is not effective and a second is deployed to similar effect.

Casimiro comments on the Taser's failure and appears to tug on the Taser wires as Dunn says "that is all I got for Taser."

Casimiro is seen pulling a Taser probe from her clothing and says "what's up" and brings the screwdriver to her chest, the letter states. At that time Dunn fires three shots, striking the woman twice in the right knee.

Casimiro immediately falls to the ground and drops the screwdriver, at which point she is secured and medical aid rendered. She was taken to a hospital with injuries not considered life-threatening and ultimately booked into jail facing charges that included burglary. 

Dunn told investigators he believed Casimiro was not mentally composed and believed herself to have a "God-complex", which he explained as a feeling of invincibility. He told investigators he targeted her knee in as a final effort to save her life because he believed she would escalate the situation to a point where he would have to fatally shoot her.

Dunn told investigators he feared for his life and the lives of others. However, the Iron County Attorney found that his use of lethal force was not justified.

"While the suspect was armed with a screwdriver and had been non-compliant by failing to follow officer's commands, including multiple commands to drop the screwdriver, it cannot be objectively 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," the letter states.

The letter states that Casimiro was not fleeing, had not made any verbal threats, and that there was sufficient distance between her and the officers to remove the threat of any imminent harm.

"From the video and Sergeant Berg's testimony, it appears that the situation was manageable at the time Corporal Dunn arrived and it would have seemed reasonable for officers to continue de-escalation tactics until the situation could be more fully contained. Corporal Dunn was only on scene for three minutes before firing shots."

The attorney notes things may have been different had Casimiro been advancing toward officers or had she been armed with a gun, but they say in this case Dunn's use of force was not justified.

While Dunn's actions have been found not justified, the letter states he will not be charged criminally.

"Even though the shooting was not legally justified, the State would not be able to prove the requisite criminal intent for a criminal charge," the letter states.

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