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Feb. 14 shooting a felony, coroner's jury rules
Edith Snyder clutched a blue vinyl binder filled with thoughts about and mementos of her dead son and let out a little cry as Coroner John Clifton carefully read the verdict that her son's shooting was a crime.
The three-man, three-woman jury deliberated for an hour before finding that Steven R. Julian, a state fugitive investigator, committed a felony when he shot Zachary C. Snyder in the back while attempting to make an arrest Feb. 14 at an apartment complex on Themis Street.
After the jury returned the verdict, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said he would decide whether to seek criminal charges against Julian by noon today.
Julian testified at the inquest, held Tuesday night at the Cape Girardeau Common Pleas Courthouse, that he drew his service weapon issued to him by the Department of Corrections, a Glock 22 .44-caliber semiautomatic handgun, as he stepped out of the car to arrest Snyder for a parole violation.
He probably would have relied on his Taser instead had it been daytime, but the time of night and the neighborhood convinced him to draw his firearm instead, he testified.
"It occurred so fast," he said, recounting for the jury how he identified himself to Snyder, asked him to place his hands on his vehicle and prepared to put handcuffs on him.
Then, Snyder's compliance ended, and he made a sudden, jumping motion that Julian perceived as an attack, he testified.
"I was the only one there, and I really believed he was going to attack me," he said.
He couldn't see the left side of Snyder's body, and did not know whether he had a weapon, he testified.
In his seven and a half years as an investigator with the Department of Corrections, Julian said, he'd never been involved in a situation where he'd had to discharge his gun before, but this time he did, striking Snyder in the back.
A forensic pathologist testified that Snyder died of a single gunshot wound that penetrated his left shoulder blade, lungs and part of his heart.
Julian had gone to the apartment complex to serve the warrant after a friend of Zachary Snyder's, Leslie Tyler, alerted him that Zachary Snyder was there. Snyder would have returned to the Department of Corrections for violating the conditions of his parole on charges of stealing a car and possession of controlled substances related to methamphetamine.
Tyler testified he saw Zachary Snyder place his hands on Julian's car, then suddenly yank free and turn to run.
"That's when I heard fire," he testified.
Surrounded by friends and supporters at the back of the courtroom, Edith Snyder was the last witness jury members heard from before they retired. She ended her testimony talking about the blue book, what it meant to her that her son's teachers and school friends worked to compile it.
Zachary Snyder had a side that didn't show much, she said.
"Zachary has never been violent," she said. "The only person he ever hurt in his life was himself."
To close her testimony, Snyder read from a school paper. "Giving love is greater than any riches in the world," she said, then reading her son's name and date before closing the covers.
335-6611, extension 245