Monday morning began just as Friday evening had ended in the murder trial of former Rocky Ford police officer James Ashby, with former Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Gregg Slater on the stand to answer questions pertaining to Ashby's involvement in the death of Jack Jacquez Jr.
Monday morning began just as Friday evening had ended in the murder trial of former Rocky Ford police officer James Ashby, with former Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Gregg Slater on the stand to answer questions pertaining to Ashby's involvement in the death of Jack Jacquez Jr, whom Ashby is accused of shooting and killing in Jacquez's home in October 2014.
As was the case last week, District Attorney James Bullock used an electronic device, this time an audio interview of Ashby conducted by Slater in the hours following the incident, to detail the events. In the audio Ashby explained the evening of October 11, 2014, and the hours leading up to his contact with Jacquez.
Ashby said the night was "mostly slow" and he had made minimal contact with any persons prior to picking up a civilian ride-along, Kyle Moore, at roughly 12 a.m., Oct. 12.
Ashby went on to say about his contact with Jacquez at approximately 2 a.m., "I saw a guy on a skateboard in the middle of the right hand lane on Highway 50 with dark clothes on. I approached him and said 'hey bro,' or something like that. He looked at me and said, 'f*** you.' He seemed pissed off; very dismissive. he was erratic. Something was off. He seemed fidgety."
According to Ashby, Jacquez refused to engage in conversation and continued west. He claims Jacquez was approximately 10 yards past the rear entrance of a residence off of the highway when he made a beeline back to the exterior of the residence, where he entered the yard through an opening in hedges.
"Once he got to the bushes he started to blend in," Ashby recalled. "I thought, 'What is he doing in these people's yard?'"
Ashby explained exiting his patrol car and following Jacquez into the yard and to a back entrance to the home where he recalled Jacquez's demeanor, saying, "He had an 'I want to hurt you' look on his face. I was already scared and then I noticed he was hiding something. He banged on the door with some part of his body. He had his hand in a bag. I remember thinking, 'Why don't you pull out your keys if you live here?"
Ashby went on to explain pulling his gun on Jacquez and demanding that Jacquez show his hands. "He pulled his hand out of the bag with his fingers spread like a web," explained Ashby. Ashby recalled putting his gun away and attempting to handcuff Jacquez by grabbing his left wrist with his left hand, at which point he said the exterior door was opened and he was "dragged" in to the home by Jacquez.
Upon entering the home, Ashby recalled thinking to himself, "He's winning," at which point he released Jacquez and pulled pepper spray from the left side of his holster and sprayed at what he presumed to be the face of Jacquez, saying that the room was dark and he could not clearly see.
Ashby said his attention was drawn to a second individual in the room whom he believed he also sprayed, later identified as Viola Jacquez, Jack's mother. Ashby said he then looked back to the area where Jack Jacquez had been standing, claiming he could see a silhouette of Jacquez and the clear outline of a bat he says Jacquez raised in the air and began to "wind up."
"I remember thinking 'I'm going to get my gun,'" said Ashby, who proceeded to draw his weapon and fire two shots in the direction of Jacquez, hitting Jacquez once in the middle of his back, causing fatal injuries.
When questioned by Bullock, Slater confirmed that later findings showed there to be no weapons in the bag in the possession of Jacquez on the night of the incident but confirmed a pair of keys were found in the bag, presumably to the entrance of the residence.
During cross-examination, defense attorney Michael Lowe referred to additional contents found in the bag in the possession of Jacquez, including a marijuana pipe and marijuana grinder.
Lowe proceeded to ask Slater about his extensive background as a police officer and police training evaluator, asking "Are police trained to assume that if an individual reaches into a bag that there is a weapon in the bag?' which Slater confirmed. When asked, "In your experience, is riding a skateboard down the middle of the highway reason to stop an individual?" Slater also confirmed saying that it poses a safety concern. Slater also confirmed, based on his experience, that it is lawful for a police officer to attempt to get an individual to remain where they are upon making contact and confirmed the proper steps to take when a police officer is confronted, being physical presence, verbal commands, then pepper spray, which defense attorneys say Ashby followed.
Also questioned Monday was coroner Bob Fowler, who arrived at Arkansas Valley Regional Medical Center, where Jacquez was pronounced deceased; Vince Fraker, who served as evidence custodian for the incident response ream in charge of investigating the incident; and Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter, who was the forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy to determine the cause and manner of death.
In his testimony, Lingamfelter says the bullet entered Jacquez's body near the middle of his back, severing his spine, an injury that would have made it immediately impossible for Jacquez to move or control any part of his body below the wound, adding, "He should have collapsed where he was shot." The bullet then hit Jacquez' aorta, the body's main artery, which Lingamfelter said caused massive amounts of blood loss which most people "usually do not survive." The bullet then passed through the left ventricle of the heart and the lower part of Jacquez's left lung, fractured his left fifth rib and came to rest near the surface of the skin just under Jacquez's left nipple.
Lingamfelter determined the cause of death to be a gunshot wound and the manner of death a homicide.
Also of note, Lingamfelter shared the results of a toxicology screening conducted on Jacquez by testing blood and also fluids in the eye to determine the presence of drugs or alcohol in Jacquez's body at the time of his death. Reports showed an alcohol blood content (BAC) of .043 in Jacquez's blood and .055 in the eye fluid, which Lingamfelter said indicates that Jacquez had been drinking but had stopped "for some time" prior to the incident. According to Lingamfelter, BAC levels are evident first in the blood system before becoming present in eye fluid. He explained his reasoning by saying "the alcohol levels were already starting to lower in the blood but will present at a higher rate in the eye fluid, which tells us his body was already starting to lose the effects of alcohol consumed earlier."
Also present was THC, which indicated that Jacquez had smoked marijuana at some point prior to his death. The level of THC is Jacquez's body was not disclosed.
Testimony continues at the Otero County Courthouse.
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