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11/7/2012 10:34:00 AM
Jury rules in favor of Prescott Valley in wrongful-death case
Donald Frank Smith
Donald Frank Smith
Ken Hedler
Special to the Tribune

A Superior Court jury has ruled in favor of the Town of Prescott Valley in a wrongful-death case stemming from the police shooting of a knife-wielding man on April 17, 2010.

The jury of eight women and one man ruled the Prescott Valley police were not at fault in fatally shooting Donald Frank "Smitty" Smith, 54, of Prescott Valley at his home in the 5200 block of Stetson Drive.

"Basically, the trial was based on the officers' objective reasonableness," said Prescott Valley Police Chief Bill Fessler, "meaning that they used the appropriate force necessary to deal with the situation. We were confident at the outset that they (the police) did everything appropriately."

"We are always trying to follow a fine line," said Town Attorney Ivan Legler, who did not attend the seven-day civil trial in Judge Kenton Jones' courtroom. "We are pleased with the results and are grateful that they recognized that appropriate procedures were followed (by the police)."

The trial concluded this past Thursday. Smith's widow, Cheryl Meloche, sought $9 million in damages in the suit that her attorneys, Krista Carman and John White of Warnock, Mackinlay & Carman LLC of Prescott, had filed in Superior Court Dec. 23, 2010.

Carman said she plans to appeal the jury's decision.

The town government referred the case to the Arizona Municipal Risk Retention Pool, which assigned Larry Crown and associates at the Phoenix law firm of Jennings, Haug & Cunningham, to represent the town and police officers.

Her lawsuit alleged police officers engaged in negligence and gross negligence in the shooting of Smith, and named officers Jacob Jackson, Del Miller, Keven O'Hagan, Tyran Payne and their wives, "John and Jane Does 1-10" as defendants. Miller is no longer with the department.

The shooting occurred after Smith came at three officers with a knife during a domestic violence call. Officers answered the call at 3:57 p.m. from Meloche, who said her husband grabbed her by the hair, pulled her to the floor, threatened her with a taser and told her he was going to kill her, police Administrative Sgt. Brandon Bonney said at the time.

Smith, who taught an alcohol awareness class, reportedly drank beer and was intoxicated before the incident.

The confrontation escalated to Smith charging at the officers with a knife after they entered his house, according to an investigation that the Arizona Department of Public Safety conducted.

The County Attorney's Office declined to file charges against the police officers in Smith's case, Legler has said.

Related Stories:
• Wrongful death suit brought against Prescott Valley police
• Prescott Valley officers will not face charges in April shooting
• Suspect identified in fatal shooting

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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, November 16, 2012
Article comment by: Never a cop, but knows a lot of them

Hey, m m, Obviously, if it had been you in the doorway instead of the guys who put their lives on the line when this all went down, you'd have been killed. Remember, the cops had about a half a second to react. Think about it before you shoot your mouth off.

Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2012
Article comment by: Not a Crazy Drunk

If an out-of-control drunk who had already threatened to kill his wife was coming at me with a knife, I'd shoot first and ask questions later, too. People should not be surprised at the consequences of their irresponsible actions, and never blame alcohol. No one forced them to drink.

Posted: Friday, November 9, 2012
Article comment by: m m

So much for justice, and presenting the facts. The PVPD involved were cowards, im sure they could have found a better way to handle a 54 year old man holding a steak knife.

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