By SCOTT SMITH, Associated Press
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed criminal charges against a sheriff's detective in Central California accused of killing his colleague in what authorities had initially called a tragic and accidental shooting, officials said.
Fresno County Sheriff's Sgt. Rod Lucas died in October while talking with a detective about how to carry their backup weapons.
A gun fired, striking 46-year-old Lucas in the chest, causing him to drop to the ground.
Detective Jared Mullis was charged Friday with felony involuntary manslaughter, the Fresno County District Attorney's Office said.
In court papers, prosecutors say Mullis killed Lucas without malice, but the killing was unlawful because he failed to use "due caution and circumspection." The charge includes a weapons enhancement because Mullis used his firearm, which means he may face a longer sentence if convicted.
Mullis' defense attorney Roger Wilson said Monday that his client could spend up to 14 years in state prison. Wilson said that was excessive because Mullis admired Lucas and the shooting was accidental.
"Clearly it was not a criminal act," he said, adding concern for the potential long prison sentence. "It says not only do we want to punish you, we want to punish you a lot."
Fresno County Assistant District Attorney Blake Gunderson declined to comment on the case.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims had said at the time of the shooting that it appeared to be a tragic accident. The two were in an office having a conversation with two other colleagues, and there was no dispute, she had said.
Mullis has been a Fresno County Deputy Sheriff for 10 years, and Lucas was with the sheriff's office for 20 years.
Sheriff's spokesman Tony Botti declined to comment Monday. He said in a statement that the shooting has taken an emotional toll on the entire sheriff's office, including the families of both Lucas and Mullis.
Mullis is currently on paid leave from the department, the office said. He's scheduled for his first court appearance in the case on Aug. 3.