SEDALIA, Mo. — A prosecutor put in charge of investigating the officer shooting and killing of Hannah Fizer stated that he will not file charges against the deputy.
Special prosecutor Sephen P. Sokoloff wrote in his conclusion that “the shooting, albeit possibly avoidable, was justifiable under current Missouri criminal law.”
Twenty-five-year-old Hannah Fizer, of Sedalia, was shot and killed during a traffic stop on June 13. The Missouri State Highway Patrol initially said that Fizer refused to identify herself to the Pettis County deputy, was armed and verbally threatened to shoot the deputy. The incident escalated, and the deputy shot Fizer. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
However, Fizer’s family and friends have questioned the account, arguing she would never threatened someone, and investigators never found a gun.
“The evidence indicates that the deceased, who had been stopped for multiple traffic violations and who had refused to provide any information to the officer, had advised him that she was recording him, and then shortly thereafter, that she had a gun and was going to shoot him,” Sokoloff wrote in his statement. “At the time the officer discharged his weapon, she had reached down into the floorboard of the car and raised up towards him. Based on the information and circumstances available to the officer during the event, it cannot be said that the officer did not have a reasonable belief that he was in danger of serious physical injury or death from the actions of the deceased at the time he fired.”
Sokoloff further stated that Missouri law requires a standard of “reasonable belief” of imminent danger. That belief must be applied to the circumstances as they appeared to the officer at the time.
“In the surveillance video footage, the deceased can be seen moving around the vehicle vigorously and bending down. She can be heard during the officer’s radio dispatch yelling at him, and he repeats her threat that she had a gun and is going to shoot him to Dispatch prior to him discharging his weapon,” Sokoloff wrote.
The shooting came at a time of civil unrest over use of force by the police across the nation, originally sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protesters immediately reacted to Fizer’s death in Sedalia, demanding accountability and action against the officer.
“Whenever any kind of encounter between law enforcement and citizens ends in a loss of life, it is highly regrettable,” Sokoloff wrote. “More training on de-escalation techniques, and sometimes just more experience may be what is needed. The recent spate of these types of avoidable deaths would certainly suggest that a reexamination of training techniques may be in order.”