On November 13, 2018, Pratt resident Rene Prieto, 38, was shot by three Pratt Police Department officers. He died a few days later. Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin has now released her investigative report of the incident to the public.
In an official press release from the Pratt County Attorney's office on Friday, Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin stated that she found the use of force by officers of the Pratt Police Department lawful and justified in the fatal shooting of Pratt resident Rene Prieto, 38, on November 13, 2018 in the 500 block of North Main Street in Pratt.
"This matter is a tragedy and sympathy goes out to all persons affected," Beverlin stated. "The facts support a showing that the officers sincerely believed the used of force was necessary to defend themselves and their fellow officers."
In Analysis and Conclusion statements Beverlin wrote the following:
"Upon arriving at the scene, acting Chief Ward knew the suspect had pointed a gun at two reporting witnesses. Officer Slief was already engaging the suspect when Ward observed the suspect turn toward him with a pistol pointed at him. Officer Slief remembers seeing the suspect turn around with a gun and at least getting one round off toward Ward. Slief thought Ward had gotten shot because she observed Ward fall to the ground which resulted in her returning fire. Slief stated she was scared for Jeff. Lt. Shelden observed Ward coming up the Alley and observed the suspect point a black semiautomatic pistol at Ward. Shelden felt he needed to stop the threat. The facts support a showing that the officers sincerely believed the use of force was necessary to defend against themselves and their fellow officers. It was reasonable for the officers to believe the use of deadly force was necessary due to the actions of Prieto leading up to the officers arrival on scene, the actions of Prieto observed by the officers at the scene, and observance of the act of Prieto pointing the gun and firing at Ward. The completed investigation shows no indication that probable cause exists to support a determination that the officers acted criminally.
Beverlin said, in the report, that medical records indicated that Prieto did not have narcotics in a blood toxicology screen but he did have a high and critical blood alcohol content."
"The legal limit for driving in Kansas is 80 mg/dl, we often hear it referred to as .08 BAC (blood alcohol concentration)," Bevelin said on Monday. "In this case, Prieto’s blood alcohol concentration level was 274.2 mg/dl, which means his blood alcohol concentration was a .274 BAC (274 percent concentration), over three times the legal driving limit."
The complete press release from the Pratt County Attorney's office on the Pratt Police Department officer-involved shooting of Rene Prieto on November 13, 2108 is available on the Pratt Tribune website at www.pratttribune.com.
Complete Report of 11-13-18 Officer-Involved Shooting in Pratt from the office of Pratt County Attorney Tracey Beverlin:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Pratt County Attorney Issues Opinion on Officer Involved Shooting SUBJECT: Pratt Police Department Officer Involved Shooting on November 13, 2018 DECEASED: Rene Prieto LOCATION: 500 Block of North Main, Pratt, Kansas.
The Pratt County Attorney, Tracey T. Beverlin, announces completion of review of the investigation conducted by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation of the Officer Involved Shooting incident that occurred on November 13, 2018, in the 500 Block of North Main Street in the City of Pratt. Legal Standard The prosecutor is an independent administrator necessary to defend such person or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force. (b) A person is justified in the use of deadly force under circumstances described in subsection (a) if such person reasonably believes that such use of deadly force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to such person or a third person. (c) Nothing in this section shall require a person to retreat if such person is using force to protect such person or a third person “Use of force” means any or all of the following directed at or upon another person or thing: (A) Words or actions that reasonably convey the threat of force, including threats to cause death or great bodily harm to a person; (B) the presentation or display of the means of force; or (C) the application of physical force, including by a weapon or through the actions of another. “Use of deadly force” means the application of any physical force described in the above paragraph which is likely to cause death or great bodily harm to a person. Any threat to cause death or great bodily harm, including, but not limited to, by the display or production of a weapon, shall not constitute use of deadly force, so long as the actor's purpose is limited to creating an apprehension that the actor will, if necessary, use deadly force in defense of such actor or another or to affect a lawful arrest. The analysis of a self-defense claim is a two-pronged test. The first is subjective and requires a showing that a person sincerely and honestly believed it was necessary to kill to defend himself or others. The second prong is an objective standard and requires a showing that a reasonable person in the circumstance of the person using force would have perceived the use of deadly force in self-defense as necessary. State v. McCullough, 293 Kan. 970, 975 (2012). A person who uses force and is justified pursuant to K.S.A. 21-5222 is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use of such force. K.S.A. 21-5231. A law enforcement agency may use standard procedures for investigating the use of force but the agency shall not arrest the person for using force unless it determines that there is probable cause for the arrest. A prosecutor may commence a criminal prosecution upon a determination of probable cause. Self-defense and immunity are distinct concepts. See State v. Hardy, 305 Kan. 1001, 2017. The use of deadly force is evaluated on a case by case basis.
Facts On November 13, 2018 at approximately 3:40 pm, Pratt Police Department (PPD) was dispatched to the area of the 500 block of North Main area in the City of Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas, in reference to a man with a gun. Reporting witnesses informed the man, later identified as Rene Prieto, was walking a dog, aiming a gun at residents, and hiding in the bushes in the 500 Block of North Jackson Street. Witnesses observed Prieto had a hold of a larger brown dog which he appeared to be having trouble controlling.
At one point the dog made a lunge and it pulled at Prieto which made Prieto wave his hand that was not holding the dog and witnesses observed a 3 smaller compact pistol in Prieto’s hand. Prieto began backing up and pointed his gun at witnesses. The witnesses called 911 and during the dispatch call commented that the man looked like he was under the influence of something and that he had pointed what looked like a 9 millimeter Glock at them.
Pratt Police Department Lieutenant (Lt.) James Shelden, Pratt Police Department Officer Rebecca Slief, and Pratt Police Department Acting Chief Jeffrey Ward responded to the area to look for the suspect. The suspect was located by officers outside of 512 North Main Street, Pratt, Kansas, which was Prieto’s residence. Slief and Shelden arrived in marked patrol vehicles and in Pratt Police Department issued uniforms identifying them as police officers. Both patrol vehicles were parked on Main Street in front and north slightly of 512 North Main Street. Prieto was on the porch area of the residence and then moved to a black Nissan Altima parked in the driveway at 512 North Main Street.
Slief observed Prieto slip or stumble while getting off the porch. Slief made the observation that Prieto acted like he was under the influence of alcohol or narcotics. Slief attempted to make contact with Prieto by verbally yelling at Prieto but, Prieto made no attempt to look or react to Slief’s communication. Prieto continued to move to the black Nissan. Prieto was somewhat sitting on the driver’s front seat as Ward approached from the east alley. Slief and Shelden approached from the north side of the residence. Both Slief and Shelden were in lighted positions where an individual could see that Slief and Shelden were wearing uniforms. Prieto would not acknowledge the officers. Ward attempted to gain compliance through verbal commands.
PPD Officers did not remember if anyone yelled “Police” but Ward did attempt to get Prieto to show his hands. Ward observed Prieto stand up with a black pistol in Prieto’s right hand. Prieto turned and extended the pistol toward Ward. Slief and Sheldon observed Prieto point the pistol at Ward. Prieto started firing at Ward while advancing from the driver’s door toward Ward. Ward, Shelden, and Slief returned fire striking and incapacitating Prieto. Slief observed Ward fall down, thinking Ward was shot by Prieto, when she returned fire. Prieto fell behind the black Nissan. Ward sustained injuries to his face and reported he did not know if it was gravel or bullets hitting him. The Crime Scene Response Team documented bullet strikes on the ground in the location Ward was standing. Ward’s clothing exhibited defects consistent with the passage of a bullet.
Pratt County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) was notified and in route prior to officers approaching and securing Prieto. EMS provided medical treatment to Prieto and transported him to Pratt Regional Medical Center. Prieto was then transported in critical condition to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis.
A search warrant was obtained and a search was conducted on the residence at 512 North Main Street. Located inside the residence on the kitchen counter was a container holding alcohol that had been opened and was partially empty. Multiple cartridge casings were located outside of the residence where each PPD Officer was standing and where Prieto was standing. There was a Glock 9mm pistol located beside Prieto. All PPD Officer firearms’, recovered cartridge casings, Prieto’s pistol, and a bullet recovered from a shed east of the residence were collected and sent for testing and comparison to KBI Forensic Laboratory Firearm and Toolmark Section in Topeka, KS. A forensic scientist completed comparisons showing that cartridge casings were matched to each pistol (PPD Officers’ and Prieto’s) and the recovered bullet from a shed that was shot by Prieto toward Ward matched Prieto’s pistol. Three cartridge casings were recovered from Prieto’s location.
Medical records indicated Prieto did not have narcotics located in a blood toxicology screen but Prieto did have a high and critical blood alcohol content of 274.2 MG/DL. Prieto remained at Via Christi Hospital on life-support until family discontinued life-support. On November 21, 2018, Rene Prieto succumbed to injuries at approximately 11:54 am.
The Pratt County Coroner (on-call) ordered a full autopsy on the body of Prieto. The provisional autopsy report indicated the following: Cause of death was a gunshot to the head. Injuries included entry wound to left frontotemporal scalp, exit wound to forehead with pathway left to right and back to front, resulting in perforation of skull and brain. There was healing graze wounds located on right forearm and right face. The complete and formal autopsy report is still pending.
Analysis and Conclusion This matter is a tragedy and sympathy goes out to all persons affected. After an extensive review of all records and evidence presented and applying the facts to Kansas law, the County Attorney finds the use of force by the officers of the Pratt Police Department was lawful. In this matter, the officers of the Pratt Police Department were justified in the use of deadly force against Rene Prieto. Upon arriving at the scene, acting Chief Ward knew the suspect had pointed a gun at two reporting witnesses. Officer Slief was already engaging the suspect when Ward observed the suspect turn toward him with a pistol pointed at him. Officer Slief remembers seeing the suspect turn around with a gun and at least getting one round off toward Ward. Slief thought Ward had gotten shot because she observed Ward fall to the ground which resulted in her returning fire. Slief stated she was scared for Jeff. Lt. Shelden observed Ward coming up the Alley and observed the suspect point a black semiautomatic pistol at Ward. Shelden felt he needed to stop the threat. The facts support a showing that the officers sincerely believed the use of force was necessary to defend against themselves and their fellow officers. It was reasonable for the officers to believe the use of deadly force was necessary due to the actions of Prieto leading up to the officers arrival on scene, the actions of Prieto observed by the officers at the scene, and observance of the act of Prieto pointing the gun and firing at Ward. The completed investigation shows no indication that probable cause exists to support a determination that the officers acted criminally. Tracey T. Beverlin Pratt County Attorney