Witness: Shooting victim unarmed

Saturday, February 16, 2008

To view the Department of Corrections Fugitive Apprehension Section's firearms policy click here. WARNING: The policy was obtained via fax and may be difficult to read.

Zachary C. Snyder, the 23-year-old victim in a shooting that occurred Thursday night at a Themis Street apartment complex, did not appear to be armed when he was shot once in the upper torso, a witness said Friday.

Pam Dintelmann, a tenant at the apartment complex, was helping a friend unload groceries from her car when she saw Snyder speaking with a man in the parking lot near the door of her building.

She and Snyder were only acquaintances, she said, because he was a frequent visitor of a man who lives in the complex.

Darren Ellis, manager of the apartment building, said Snyder, of Dexter, Mo., didn't live there.

A state fugitive recovery agent was serving a warrant for parole violation on Snyder and taking him into custody when the shooting occurred, said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

The investigation continues, but evidence indicates the gun was discharged by the agent while attempting to make the arrest, Hovis said.

Dintelmann said Snyder attempted to run away from the man he was talking to, and a single shot was fired, hitting Snyder as he turned.

Snyder, wounded, then ran behind Dintelmann's car, and the man followed him, gun still drawn, Dintelmann said.

Dintelmann said she ran into her house after the shooting because she was afraid and that police had arrived by the time she was able to comprehend what had happened.

Cape Girardeau County Coroner John Clifton said Snyder suffered a single gunshot wound to the upper torso. Police did not confirm the caliber of the handgun believed to have fired the fatal shot. Snyder was later pronounced dead at Saint Francis Medical Center, Clifton said.

Only one shot was fired, police say.

All Missouri fugitive apprehension investigators are issued a Glock 22 .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections policy.

Clifton said a coroner's inquest is set for Feb. 26.

At the inquest, six citizens will be called to present evidence, and a ruling will be made on whether the shooting was justified, said Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle.

Swingle said in order for a law enforcement officer to be justified in using deadly force, he must act under the reasonable belief such action is necessary to protect his own life and safety and that of others.

The only role of the prosecutor during an inquest is to "have the truth come out," Swingle said.

Swingle said that the public nature of an inquest in this type of case can serve to quell speculation that anything is being swept under rug because the person in question is a law enforcement officer.

According to Department of Corrections policy concerning fugitive apprehension agents, deadly force may not be used to make an arrest or to prevent escape unless there is reasonable belief that the suspect is attempting to escape by using a deadly weapon, or may otherwise endanger life or inflict serious physical injury unless immediately apprehended.

Feb. 10, 2001, was the last time a law enforcement officer was involved in a fatal shooting in Cape Girardeau.

Sgt. Brad Moore and Cpl. Keith May of the Cape Girardeau Police Department knocked on the door of a room at the Super 8 Motel after they received information that drugs were being used by the people that rented the unit, said Moore.

After two people in the room agreed to let Moore, then the platoon commander on duty, look around, he said he uncovered a jar of what was later confirmed to be methamphetamine.

"That's when things went downhill," Moore said.

He heard May say the suspect had a gun, just before the man lunged off the bed and shot both officers, hitting May in the abdomen and Moore in the in middle of his arm, shattering part of the bone.

May and Moore returned fire immediately, killing the suspect.

At the inquest that followed, a jury decided it had been justifiable self-defense on the part of both officers, Moore said.

They had the overwhelming support of the community, including the family of the man who was shot, Moore said.

Moore said there was a moment of disbelief when the subject began shooting, where he just "didn't believe it was happening."

If he and May had not returned fire, he said, he believes the subject "would have made sure we didn't walk out of that room."

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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