Visitor who shot and killed intruder was justified, D.A. says

Published: Sunday, Sept. 2 2012 4:40 p.m. MDT

SANDY — A man who shot and killed an intruder while visiting a woman at a Sandy apartment was legally justified, prosecutors have determined.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill said his office determined that Priest Jemelle Mitchell, 35, was justified in using deadly force against Brendon Saunders on June 30 at Windmill Cove Apartments, 9551 Brandy Spring Lane, because he was trying to protect himself.

Saunders, 41, was trying to get into his ex-wife's apartment after learning she was there with Mitchell, Gill said.

While Saunders had stayed at the apartment before, he did not have a key to the property and was not listed on the lease agreement.

"(Saunders) wasn't aware of the relationship between (Mitchell) and (the woman), if there was one," Gill said. "He showed up, tried to get an employee to let him into (the) apartment and they were not going to do that because he was not a tenant. He was not on the lease."

Prosecutors said Saunders then informed the employee that he was going to kick the door in. Inside the apartment, Mitchell and the woman heard yelling and someone kicking on the door.

"He was really violently kicking the door. ... He lowered his shoulder and lunged through the door" at Mitchell, Gill said. "Mr. (Mitchell) fired several rounds from his handgun, killing the victim."

The victim suffered multiple gunshot wounds and was transported to the hospital in serious condition, but later died. Gill said Utah law allows the use of deadly force by someone who does not live on a property if they are there lawfully and believe someone is trespassing with the intent to commit an act of violence.

"Kicking the door and kicking it through certainly instigates the statutory defense," Gill said. "Then the statute of course assumes that the person that acted with lethal force acted reasonably with imminent peril and threat of injury." Gill said the facts of the case ultimately did not warrant filing any criminal charges against Mitchell.

"Mr. Saunders broke the door down and opened it up in a violent, aggressive manner," Gill said. "He charged at Mr. (Mitchell), who used deadly force to protect himself."

E-mail: emorgan@desnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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