Not Guilty verdict for suspect in deputy shooting case
PINEVILLE, Mo. — Verdict: The jury took about 1 hour and 45 minutes to deliberate and have found Fitchpatrick not guilty on both counts of unlawful use of a weapon and armed criminal action.
Fitchpatrick will be sentenced for unlawful possession of a firearm on August 26th.
Update: The defense rested and both sides are finished with their closing arguments. The jury is now deliberating.
The prosecution rests in the trial of a St. Louis, Missouri man accused of shooting a Jasper County Sheriff’s Deputy in March 2017. The deputy survived.
E.F. Fitchpatrick, Jr., 46, is charged with first degree assault, armed criminal action and unlawful possession of a firearm. Authorities say he shot and wounded Deputy Nolan Murray, a member of the Ozark Drug Enforcement Team (ODET).
Murray and other ODET members were serving a search warrant at the Econo Lodge Inn & Suites at 3510 South Range Line Road in Joplin, Missouri where Fitchpatrick was staying. He was on the second floor in a room only accessible from the outside (Room 222).
In opening statements yesterday, the defense argued that Fitchpatrick fired in self-defense, thinking deputies outside his hotel room were members of a local gang. The defense said ODET members did not identify themselves as law enforcement.
Today, the prosecution continued to call witnesses to the stand in a McDonald County Courtroom. KOAM Reporter Zach Dodge was there.
Prosecution called two ODET members and one JPD/SWAT member to the stand. One ODET member said he was positive it was announced they were law enforcement before they started to ram the hotel door in. The second ODET member’s testimony backed it up, saying he could hear the members announcing they were law enforcement before they began ramming in the door.
The prosecution rested at 10:00 am.
Defense Attorney William Fleischaker motioned for a dismissal of charges based on the claim of self-defense because law enforcement didn’t announce themselves. The judge denied the motion.
The defense then played a cell phone video taken by an Econo Lodge employee outside the room in the parking lot. The video showed the ODET members outside the balcony door, ramming the door and breaking through the window. It also showed Murray being shot. KOAM Reporter Zach Dodge says from where he was in the courtroom, he couldn’t distinguish what was being said in the video due to the sound of wind in the video. Dodge said he mainly heard people around the cell phone.
The defense then called ODET Commander Chad Allison to the stand. Allison says he was in the parking lot when Murray was shot. At that point, he says there was a lot of chaos.
The defense also questioned another ODET member who testified that he couldn’t see inside the window before or after the window was broken, and that he didn’t recall if anyone announced who they were.
Fitchpatrick was the last person to take the stand before recess. They went over his background, starting from childhood. Fitchpatrick says he had an abusive father, which was part of the reason he got into drugs in the first place. The defense then moved on to his criminal background. Fitchpatrick has been convicted of possession of an illegal weapon a few times and several drug related crimes.
The defendant re-stated that he didn’t hear the ODET members announce they were law enforcement and that it was self-defense. Fitchpatrick says he was afraid it was the Joplin Honkies because of a recent argument.
He claimed he didn’t hear an announcement and never saw the door frame moving when they were ramming it. When the window broke, he says he blindly fired towards the window.
He also testified that when he saw the SWAT’s first flash bang, he then knew it was the cops, so he flushed the drugs in the bathroom. Fitchpatrick says he then shot himself under his chin, trying to kill himself because he realized he had shot a cop.
The trial went into recess around 12:10 pm.
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