H. Michael Steinberg has over 32 years experience practicing Colorado criminal law. Mr. Steinberg strives to stay current with the ever changing aspects of criminal law issues and updates resulting in his extensive knowledge of successful criminal defense as well as appellate work. He is also an active member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar Association, the Colorado Trial Lawyer's Association, and the Colorado and Arapahoe Bar Associations.
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Police Show Complete Ignorance of 4th Amendment Search and Seizure Protections – Result? Death… and Indictments

A grand jury in Mesa County has indicted two Colorado state troopers in the fatal shooting of a man in his home earlier this summer.

Troopers Ivan Lawyer and Kirk Firko were indicted Thursday on counts of criminal trespass and criminal mischief. Lawyer was additionally indicted on counts of criminally negligent homicide, second-degree assault, illegal discharge of a firearm and prohibited use of a weapon.

The shooting happened after troopers were called to an accident at 7:40 p.m. July 20, near the intersection of Glade Park Road and South Broadway in Grand Junction.

According to the indictment, callers had reported that a pickup pulling a trailer and a Jet Ski had crashed into a yard and three intoxicated individuals were trying to leave.

When troopers arrived, the truck, trailer and Jet Ski were parked a short distance away.

“Both officers believed time was of the essence to secure a chemical test for purposes of securing evidence for driving while under the influence,” according to the indictment.

Lawyer and Firko knocked on the door of the suspects house but no one answered. Lawyer looked through the window, with a flashlight, and was able to see a man in the home who matched the description of the driver of the truck.

According to the indictment, the man in the home, Jason Kemp, told the troopers that they could not enter without a warrant.

As Firko attempted to detain two men who had escaped through a back door, Lawyer tried to break open the front door. The indictment states that Lawyer was afraid Kemp had already had time to grab a weapon.

With his gun drawn, Lawyer kicked open the door. As Lawyer looked in the door he saw “the darkness of Kemp” standing along the door, and saw Kemp “lift and extend his arm upward as if he was pointing a gun,” but could not actually see Kemp’s hands.

Lawyer said he saw a flash and believed he himself had been shot, but then realized he had shot Kemp.The single gunshot wound to the chest killed Kemp, despite Lawyer’s efforts to perform CPR. Kemp was not armed.

H. Michael’s Take:

This case – more than any other I have read about recently – points up the poor training of some of the police officers in Colorado. The constitutional violations in this case are outrageous and I am certain a civil law suit will follow soon. The needless death in an investigation of what amounts to drunk driving and some minor property damage symbolizes the need for officers to understand when breaking in doors is justified and when an arrest and search warrant is required.

Read more about the rights of the police to enter your home on my websites…