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Posted on: January 31, 2020

County Attorney Allister Adel Announces Decision in Tempe Officer Involved Shooting from 2019

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel at the Lectern

Phoenix, Arizona – At a news conference earlier today, County Attorney Allister Adel announced that she will not be filing criminal charges in the shooting death of Antonio Arce on January 15, 2019 by Tempe Police Officer Joseph Jaen.

At the news conference Adel stated, “When I was appointed to this position last fall, I committed to the residents of this county to enhance and ensure transparency in this office. Understandably, this case is of great significance to this community and this public announcement demonstrates my commitment to transparency in decision-making.”

Allister also stated, “We did not rush to judgement in the review of this case. The process undertaken by this office in reviewing the matter was extensive. Over the last several months, numerous investigators, prosecutors and other employees read transcripts, viewed officer body-worn camera footage, examined photos, and analyzed a number of other pieces of evidence.”

County Attorney Adel also sought an expert analysis of the evidence by an impartial, third-party. This report was another factor that Adel considered when determining her charging decision.

The opinion in Supreme Court Case Graham vs. Connor was also considered. This case law outlines a three-prong test for law enforcement when determining the reasonableness in use of lethal force and outlines three items officers must consider when using lethal force. Those are:

  • The severity of the crime at issue.
  • Whether the suspect poses an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or others.
  • Whether the suspect is actively resisting arrest or attempting to evade arrest by flight.

Arizona state statutes say that police officers are justified in using deadly force when an officer reasonably believes that it is necessary to defend himself or herself; or a third person from imminent danger.

Based on the facts and evidence in this case, Officer Jaen:

  • Believed that he was in imminent danger.
  • Believed that those in the immediate area were also in imminent danger.
  • He had no other choice but to fire his weapon to protect himself and the community.

Adel went on to say, “The events of January 15, 2019 forever changed the lives of many. This situation is absolutely heartbreaking. On that day Officer Jaen did not see a 14-year-old boy. In that moment, he saw a suspect, running through a neighborhood with a weapon.”

It is the responsibility of the County Attorney’s Office to review the evidence surrounding critical incidents involving first responders. This might include an officer-involved shooting, a death that occurs while a person is being arrested or in custody, or an incident, such as a traffic collision, where serious physical injury or death occurs. The office then completes a review of the incident and determines if criminal charges should be filed. To files charges, prosecutors must believe that there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction at trial.

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