OREM – A new report is out, describing what happened before an officer-involved shooting in Orem and giving better details about a woman who was shot in the jaw while she was in the passenger seat. The woman’s family has harsh criticism for Orem Police after they didn’t mention her in previous statements, but, were police required to?
In the probable cause statement, investigators make no mention of shots being fired as the suspect, Sam Bencomo, reportedly aimed the vehicle at the officer then stepped on the gas. Nor does it mention the passenger, Julia Jones, was hit the face with one of these bullets.
However, The Deseret News says a probation violation report on Bencomo mentions the shots and that Jones had to be rushed to the hospital for surgery. That report also says the pair were not legally allowed to be together.
Did Orem investigators do anything legally wrong by leaving those details out of the probable cause statement? According to some analysts, not really.
Former prosecutor Kent Morgan, who isn’t connected to this case, says, “Probable cause is the lowest standard in the criminal justice system. Probable cause need not show all of the defenses and need not show all of the circumstances.”
Some attorneys say PC statements are designed to convince a judge to allow someone to be held after the arrest. In this case, the statement accuses Bencomo of trying to kill a police officer. Jones isn’t mentioned because she’s not a suspect. Attorneys also say PC statements are frequently inaccurate and are never used as evidence in a criminal trial.
A civil trial, on the other hand, could be different.
“Can it have an effect on the civil case? The short answer is yes, it can,” Morgan says.
Even if a PC statement is incorrect, it’s still a matter of legal record. If a lawsuit were to be filed, Jones’ family might argue the lack of details is an attempt to avoid acknowledging she was seriously hurt.
Morgan says, “In the civil case, what you’re saying is that someone is entitled to have their damages compensated by the government and the government is misusing the criminal justice system.”
However, Morgan says this isn’t a fail-safe way to win the case.
He says, “The government can come back and just say, ‘This has nothing to do with the criminal case.’”
Officials with the Orem Police Department have been tight-lipped about what led up to the shooting, but they’ve scheduled a press conference for Wednesday at noon.
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