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Former Ariz. Officer Acquitted in On-Duty Killing of Fraud Suspect in Car

by Jim Walsh, The Arizona Republic
A former Chandler police officer hugged his wife and daughter after jurors aquitted him of all charges today in the 2002 shooting of an Ahwatukee Foothills, Ariz. woman.

Dan Lovelace, who was fired by the department after the shooting of Dawn Rae Nelson was found not guilty of second-degree murder, manslaughter and endangerment. He faced a possible 24-year prison sentence.

The jury deliberated for about three days after a 16-day trial.

Lovelace, 39, is the first Arizona officer in modern history to stand trial on felony charges stemming from an in-the-line-of-duty shooting. The case focused on the limitations placed on police by state law in using deadly force.

An ex-motorcycle cop with 7 1Z2 years experience, Lovelace was tried on charges of second-degree murder in the Oct. 11, 2002 shooting death of Nelson and endangerment of her son, Kenneth, who was riding in a rear car seat.

The key question jurors needed to decide was whether Lovelace was reasonably in fear for his life when he shot Nelson, with the bullet entering the rear portion of her left arm and ripping through her heart and both lungs.

Lovelace was investigating Nelson, 35, an Ahwatukee Foothills mother of three children, as a prescription-drug fraud suspect at a Walgreens drive-through window when she re-started her white Camaro and attempted to flee.

Three witnesses described how Lovelace chased Nelson on foot after she knocked over his motorcycle while leaving an outside bay and then made a sharp left.

Two witnesses, Jennifer Gonzales-Maytorena and her sister, Brandi Gonzales, said they saw Lovelace shoot Nelson from behind as he stood to the left of her driver's side door.

Prosecutor Vince Imbordino used the witness's testimony, an autopsy's conclusion that Nelson was shot from rear to front, and ballistics tests in arguing his case against Lovelace.

But Lovelace, a former athletic trainer, said he believed Nelson's left front tire was striking him and was in fear for his life when he shot her to avoid getting run over or crushed against the nearby pharmacy building.

Defense attorney Craig Mehrens attacked the vision of Gonzales-Maytorena, saying she could not have seen the shooting clearly without her contact lens.

Dr. Vincent Dimaio, a San Antonio medical examiner, testified that Nelson was shot from front to rear, disputing the testimony of chief Maricopa County Medical Examiner Dr. Philip Keen.

Mehrens said Lovelace was just doing his job by pursuing Nelson, who was driving with three prescription drugs in her system and disobeyed Lovelace's commands to stop.

But Imbordino said Lovelace was never in the path of Nelson's car and had no justification under law to take her life. A prosecution witness said the car was 31Z2 feet away from Lovelace when he fired.

"Regardless of his position as a police officer, regardless of the power we give them, Mrs. Nelson was entitled to due process," the prosecutor said. "The defendant was her judge and jury."

Imbordino said Lovelace had no reason to chase Nelson after calling in her license plate number to a dispatcher.

"She wasn't going to go anywhere. There were three marked patrol cars coming from every direction. The worst thing that could happen is maybe she makes it home and they contact her later."

But Mehrens said Lovelace was trained to pursue and engage Nelson.

"It flies in the face of general orders, training and common sense" for Lovelace to have simply allowed Nelson to escape, Mehrens said. "To say he didn't have an obligation when she started the car to stop her in a reasonable way is not what they (police) are trained to do."

A woman had called in a fictitious prescription for Soma, a muscle-relaxant found in Nelson's system, using the fictitious name of Linda Poston. Walgreens called police when Nelson attempted to pick up the prescription.

Retired Fed, Active Special
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Re: Former Ariz. Officer Acquitted in On-Duty Killing of Fra


Officer responds to invest drug felony, suspects fails to obey commands to stop, suspect knocks over police motorcycle in attempt to flee, Officer fears for life vs. auto used as weapon.= Unfortunate loss of life
God forbid the woman pulled out and killed/hurt pedestrians or motorists since she was arguably under the influence. Thank heaven the Officer wasn't seriously injured or worse. Drug addiction is never an underlying cause for many of these incidents. Just let the armchair experts or monday-morning second-guessers keep up with the whining about cops doing their jobs
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