- Associated Press - Thursday, June 23, 2016

LA JUNTA, Colo. (AP) - A jury in southeast Colorado convicted a former Rocky Ford police officer Thursday of second-degree murder for shooting a man he followed into a home.

Jurors deliberated for about 11 hours Wednesday and Thursday before finding James Ashby, 33, guilty in the Oct. 12, 2014, death of Jack Jacquez, 27. Ashby is the first Colorado police officer to face charges for an on-duty shooting in more than 20 years.

Prosecutors said he followed Jacquez into the home of Jacquez’s mother and shot him in the back. Ashby told investigators he thought Jacquez was a burglar, but the Colorado Bureau of Investigation determined that the officer had no reason to believe Jacquez was committing a crime before the shooting.

Ashby was arrested a month after the shooting and was fired from the Rocky Ford police department. He had been on the job for five months when he killed Jacquez.

“This jury looked at the evidence in this case and decided this killing could not be sanctioned by reasonable people,” said District Attorney James Bullock, whose son-in-law is a police officer. “Justice has been done.”

A phone call to Ashby’s attorney, Michael Lowe, was not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

According to court documents, Ashby told investigators that Jacquez mouthed off to him when he stopped him as he was skateboarding along the town’s main drag. Ashby said he thought Jacquez was trying to burglarize what turned out to be his mother’s home because he walked erratically before heading toward the back entrance. Break-ins had been on the rise in the town of about 4,000 due to a rise in heroin addiction.

However, the brother of a police officer who was on a ride-along with Ashby that night, Kyle Moore, contradicted Ashby’s account. He said Jacquez did not talk back to Ashby and walked straight from the street to a side entrance to his house, where his mother opened the door for him.

Ashby said Jacquez grabbed a baseball bat and was about to swing it at him when he fired. But the coroner found that Jacquez was shot in the back, not a position he would be in if he was winding up for a swing.

An autopsy found that the shot passed through Jacquez’s spine, instantly paralyzing him. Ashby said Jacquez took another step or two before collapsing as his mother watched, leading Dr. Daniel Lingamfelter of the El Paso County coroner’s office to conclude that Jacquez was already moving away from Ashby when he was shot.

Ashby is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 23.

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