Colorado Officer Thought He Could Get Away with Innocent Man’s Murder Until His Ride-Along Turned Against Him

James Ashby mugshot. Image courtesy of the Otero County Jail.

James Ashby mugshot. Image courtesy of the Otero County Jail.

A small-town Colorado police officer was sentenced to 16 years behind bars Thursday for the fatal shooting of an innocent man in October 2014.

According to the La Junta Tribune-Democrat, the sentence comes just two years after former Rocky Ford Police Officer James Ashby, 33, was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of 27-year-old Jack Jacquez. The ex-cop shot Jacquez in the back on Oct. 12, 2014 as he followed him into his mother’s Rocky Ford home.

A judge also ordered Ashby to serve five years parole and pay a fine of $10,000, according to the Colorado Judicial Department. Ashby’s murder conviction carried a penalty of up to 48 years in jail.

It’s rare that a police officer is charged and convicted of a crime, and Ashby may have gotten away with murder if his ride-along partner — who was present at the time of the shooting — hadn’t contradicted his initial testimony. The ex-officer didn’t even have the support of his department, which is common with cops involved in deadly shootings.

The Denver Post reports that Ashby told authorities he thought Jacquez was a burglar trying to break in the back door of his mother’s home. Per court documents, Ashby also said the young man mouthed off to him when he stopped him for skateboarding along the town’s main road. That’s when the officer followed Jacquez to his home and shot him, after he claimed the young man picked up a baseball bat and swung at him.

But the ride-along’s account of what happened that morning was totally different.

Kyle Moore, whose brother is also an officer on the Rocky Ford police force, told investigators Jacquez never mouthed off to Ashby. Moore also stated that the victim walked to a side door of the house — not the back — where Jacquez’s mother opened the door for him.

Jack Jacquez. Image courtesy of the Denver Post.

Jack Jacquez. Image courtesy of the Denver Post.

The coroner’s report contradicted Ashby’s story as well, revealing that Jacquez suffered a gunshot wound to the back. A bullet would not have entered from the back if Jacquez was winding up to swing a bat, as Ashby asserted.

The Colorado Bureau of Investigation found the officer had no reason to believe Jacquez was committing a crime before he was shot and killed, which ultimately led to his conviction, the Associated Press reports. Ashby was fired from the Rocky Ford police force after serving just five months. According to the Denver Post, he is the first officer in nearly two decades to face a murder charge in an on-duty death.

The publication also found that Ashby had disciplinary problems at his previous police job. That’s why Jacquez’s family is now suing both the department and Ashby. The family asserts that the department knew of the officer’s issues at another small police agency, from which he resigned during an excessive force investigation, the Associated Press reports.

Jacquez’s family expressed dissatisfaction with the judge’s  sentence.

“It took me a couple of hours after the verdict was read (for it to settle in),” Jack Jacquez Sr. told the Denver Post by phone Thursday. “I was content at first and then started rethinking the whole situation and realized this man got off easy. If you ever want to commit a murder, go to Rocky Ford.”

“There are no winners in this case,” he added. “There’s only a degree of sadness and despair.”

One’s of Ashby’s attorneys said they will appeal the judge’s ruling.

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