Charge filed in Feb. 14 death

Thursday, February 28, 2008
Department of Corrections Officer Steven Julian was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a coroner's inquest in the death of Zachary Snyder on Tuesday, February 26, 2008. (Aaron Eisenhauer)

Read a transcript of Julian's interview with police the night of the shooting.

Tuesday night, a coroner's jury decided Steven R. Julian, a state fugitive investigator, committed a felony when he shot Zachary C. Snyder while trying to place him in custody.

Wednesday morning, Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle acted on that decision, charging the 46-year-old investigator with involuntary manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter is a felony carrying a penalty of one to four years in prison, or up to one year in a county jail, and possible fines of up to $5,000. To be convicted, a person must be found criminally negligent or found that they failed to be aware of a substantial risk that a certain result will follow, and causing another person's death by doing so.

Bond was set at $10,000.

Julian shot Snyder outside a Themis Street apartment complex Feb. 14 while serving a warrant for parole absconder.

Julian's actions in shooting Snyder were not justified as self-defense, nor did they constitute a lawful use of force, a jury of three men and three women recommended Tuesday after hearing the testimony of 12 witnesses, including Julian.

According to the arrest warrant, Julian "approached and confronted Zachary Snyder alone to make the arrest, without uniformed backup officers present, drew down on him with a loaded firearm, and shot the unarmed Zachary Charles Snyder in the back."

Officer Darin Hickey testified at the inquest that he was on his way to the apartment complex in response to Julian's request for officer assistance in apprehending a parole jumper, when he learned through communications that the suspect had been shot.

When Hickey arrived, he found Julian standing near Snyder's lifeless body, according to a probable-cause statement signed by Lt. Tracy Lemonds of the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

At the inquest, taped phone calls between police communications and Julian while he waited for an ambulance caught his repeated, frantic calling of Snyder's name, as the victim was unresponsive.

"Why did he have to come at me?" he asked while on the phone.

At that time, Julian told Hickey "I shot him in the back," Hickey testified Tuesday night.

"He just kept repeating himself," Hickey testified.

An autopsy revealed the bullet from Julian's Glock 22 .44-caliber handgun, his service weapon, cut through Snyder's body and exited his chest, though the slug was not recovered from the scene.

Julian admitted during a police interview shortly after the shooting that nothing in Snyder's paperwork indicated he would have been armed.

"He admitted that he approached Zachary Charles Snyder alone, pulled a gun on him immediately, showed him his badge, and told him he was under arrest," the sworn statement said.

Snyder obeyed Julian's command to turn around and place his hands on the back of the investigator's green Alero, but when Julian approached him to handcuff him, Snyder moved suddenly, making a turning, lunging move to the right, the statement said.

It was then that Julian thought his life was in danger, the investigator testified Tuesday.

"I was the only one there, and I really believed he was going to attack me," Julian said.

He then realized he had shot an unarmed man in the back, according to the statement.

Use-of-force policies in place at most departments, including the fugitive investigation team Julian served, dictate that deadly force cannot be used to make an arrest or prevent escape unless the officer reasonably believes it's necessary to effect the arrest and the person is attempting to escape by using a deadly weapon or otherwise may inflict serious physical injury if not arrested.

Greg McKinney, supervisor for the fugitive apprehension team, testified he had supervised Julian for about 16 months, and that Julian had taken 178 dangerous felons into custody.

"He's had zero amount of use-of-force reports and zero amounts of complaints," McKinney testified.

Julian admitted he'd had to draw his weapon in more than half of the arrests he'd made, but that he'd never discharged it before except in training.

Julian's actions, the warrant alleges, were in "gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would have exercised in that situation."

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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