- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 9, 2014

CORTEZ, Colo. (AP) - A man accused of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest is free after his lawyer argued that Colorado law allows homeowners to use force to protect themselves.

Jurors in Cortez acquitted Shane French, 38, on Monday after 3 ½ hours of deliberations, The Cortez Journal (https://bit.ly/1zoFUBp ) reported.

In closing arguments Friday, public defender Amy Smith told jurors that French was beaten and insulted by six “amped up” police officers who had come to his home.

French was accused of stabbing officer Casey Eubanks in February after police responded to a 911 call from French’s mother, who said he was being verbally abusive.

Eubanks testified that was injured as he held French in a “bear hug.” He said French picked him up and “threw him face down” on the ground, while screaming and flailing to get away from officers.

The wound wasn’t serious. Eubanks testified, with a grin, that it was treated with a Band-Aid.

Smith argued that French was justified under Colorado’s Make My Day law, which protects homeowners from prosecution for using deadly force when someone illegally enters their home and there’s reason to believe that person will commit a crime.

While that may have impacted jurors, they may have been influenced by recent decisions not to prosecute police officers in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City in the deaths of two unarmed black men, District Attorney Will Furse told The Associated Press. In the Cortez case, both French and Eubanks are white, but the police shootings have spurred a national conversation about use of excessive force by police.

Furse said it’s impossible to look at the case in a vacuum.

“Cases like this are certainly great ones to take to trial because the community can get involved in determining the appropriateness of the response,” said Furse, adding that he stands by the officers’ actions. “The jury just was not satisfied we demonstrated that the police acted reasonably.”

During closing arguments Friday, Deputy District Attorney Matt Margeson told jurors that French charged at Eubanks and attacked him when the officers arrived at his home and “never acted reasonably.”

“When is it OK to run at a police officer and stab him? Margeson asked jurors.

French spent 297 days in jail in the case.

“I’m just glad to be free,” French said Monday.

His mother, Patty French, said the family is considering filing a civil lawsuit against the police department.

“I hope something is done with these officers,” she said. “I can’t believe they are still on the force after what they did.”


Information from: Cortez Journal, https://www.cortezjournal.com/

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