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Special prosecutor says officer-involved shooting in Pettis County is justified; sheriff encourages ‘calm’

SEDALIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The special prosecutor appointed to review the fatal shooting of a 25-year-old Sedalia woman by a sheriff's deputy has determined the killing was legally justified.

After the decision was made public, the sheriff whose deputy fired the shots encouraged calm in the community.

Stephen Sokoloff, who works for the state's Office of Prosecution Services and was appointed to review the case, released his decision in a letter Monday.

Hannah Fizer died in the June 13 shooting during a traffic stop. The Pettis County Sheriff's Department said the deputy who shot her said she had threatened to shoot him and reached for something in the floorboard.

"There are aspects of the case that lead me to believe that an alternative approach might have avoided the confrontation that led to the officer having to discharge his weapon, but that is not relevant to a determination of whether criminal liability would attach," Sokoloff wrote.

The deputy was not wearing a body camera, which Sokoloff said made the determination more difficult. However, all the information provided to Sokoloff was consistent, the prosecutor wrote.

Sokoloff wrote that, based on the information the deputy had, "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 Fizer's actions.

Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond released a statement saying he believes the department and the Pettis County prosecuting attorney ensured transparency and a thorough investigation by letting outside agencies review the case.

"We at the Sheriff’s Office have allowed to Rule of Law to properly take its course, and we await delivery of the report to complete our internal investigation into the matter," Bond said in a statement.

Fizer's death touched off several protests in Sedalia that drew scores of people. Bond went on to encourage the public to be peaceful as this case unfolds.

"Our hearts continue to go out to the Fizer family, and we encourage calmness in the community as we work together to reduce the polarization this emotional and traumatic event has caused," Bond said.

Jessica Fizer, Hannah Fizer's cousin, said she is not ready to stop fighting for justice.

"I was heartbroken, and I hate to say this but I was not surprised," Fizer said. "I don't think it was justifiable, I do agree it was avoidable."

She said she hope officers get held accountable for their actions, hoping for mandatory body camera footage and more training.

"This world need change, and if we don't stand up, if we the people don't stand up, then we are not going to get that change," Fizer said.

According to an email from Sheriff Bond, the Pettis County commission agreed to buy 23 body cameras for deputies and court bailiffs. He said they have been ordered and will be operation at the end of October.

A friend of the Fizer family and organizer of the "Justice for Hannah Fizer" page on Facebook Janet Uplinger couldn't believe the decision not to charge the deputy after the shooting, saying this is just the beginning.

"(Fizer's family) is not just going to sit back and be like 'okay, the special prosecutor made his decision this is the end.' No, this is the beginning for them," Uplinger said. "My heart aches for this family."

Uplinger along with two other community members were at the Pettis County Court House on Monday after the letter came out.

They agreed with Uplinger, believing there is more to the story than what is coming from the sheriff's department.

"You're in a traffic stop, why did it turn out so bad?" Uplinger asked. "Things are not adding up here at all."

"I just want to cry, because I can't even imagine if it were one of my daughters," Uplinger said.

ABC 17 News is speaking with community members upset about the decision. Check back or watch ABC17 News at 5, 6, 9 and 10 for more on this developing story.

Crime / Email Alert – Breaking News / News / Sedalia / Shooting / Top Stories

Matthew Sanders

Matthew Sanders is the digital content director at ABC 17 News.

Connor Hirsch

Connor Hirsch reports for the weekday night shows, as well as Sunday nights.

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