A year ago, authorities found Pima County sheriff's Deputy Chris Rogers was justified in shooting a man he said was trying to hit him with a stolen car outside a Northwest side convenience store.
Yesterday, a jury acquitted Michael James Kollmann of trying to harm the deputy.
"Hopefully this verdict will send a message to the officials at the Sheriff's Department that when they are investigating an officer- involved shooting they need to be as thorough as they possibly can," said defense attorney David Alan Darby.
Darby praised the jury for giving "Michael a fair shake" and not automatically thinking the police were right.
Jurors did, however, convict Kollmann, 27, of felony fleeing. He faces up to seven years in prison when Superior Court Judge Howard Fell sentences him next month.
Deputy County Attorney Dan Nicolini said he saw no inconsistency between Kollmann's acquittal and official reviews of the Dec. 28, 1999, shooting.
Kollmann, who grew up in Tucson but moved to Glendale, faced up to 21 years in prison if convicted of aggravated assault on an officer. He has two prior felony burglary convictions.
"The shooting review board concluded (Rogers) was justified in firing because of the circumstances, but proving that the defendant intended to either injure him or place him in fear of injury is a different issue," the prosecutor said. "Although the deputy clearly was placed in fear of injury, it's always difficult to prove what someone's intent was."
Nicolini said a sheriff's shooting review board found the shooting was justified. Deputy County Attorney Kenneth J. Peasley also reviewed the shooting for criminal wrongdoing and found that Kollmann had "posed a threat" to Rogers.
Kollmann testified on Friday he had come to Tucson - violating his probation by leaving Maricopa County - to see his mother, but had no idea how he ended up asleep outside the Circle K at 3712 W. Cortaro Farms Road. The clerk called 911 about 2:15 a.m., concerned about a car that had been parked by the gas pumps for half an hour with its engine running.
Rogers and two other deputies testified they watched the car for several minutes before he tapped on the driver's window.
Rogers said he asked the man a few questions before the driver reached for the gearshift and sharply turned the steering wheel towards him while the engine revved loudly.
The deputy said he initially grabbed the driver's leather jacket, but had no choice but to draw his 9 mm revolver when the lurching car pressed him against the gasoline pumps. In fear for his life, he said, he fired two shots - striking Kollmann once in the throat
According to the review board's six-page summary, the store clerk also described "the vehicle moving toward Dep. Rogers and believed he was about to be crushed."
However, jurors heard the store clerk and a customer say the car was headed straight when the deputy fired, which Darby said was supported by acceleration marks investigators found on the pavement.
"At the time the shots were fired the car was pulling out straight," Darby said. "The evidence is clear that Michael didn't try to run over this police officer."
Kollmann then led deputies on a 17-mile high speed pursuit before hitting a dead end.
Rogers has worked for the Sheriff's Department since November 1998 and previously worked five years for the Pinal County Sheriff's Department and briefly for the Mammoth Police Department.