Officer-Involved Shooting Still Under Investigation

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Investigators from the Department of Public Safety have not released any further information on what led to the fatal shooting of 47-year-old James Moreland by a DPS officer on Sept. 25.

Officer Jarom Lewis stopped Moreland and the driver, Janice Worthington, 46, both of Apache Junction, on Highway 87 south of Rye around 3 p.m.

DPS Sgt. John Whetten said they were pulled over for speeding, but for unknown reasons, Lewis suspected they were carrying illegal drugs.

DPS Spokesman Frank Valenzuela said Lewis asked Worthington if he could search the vehicle.

"(Worthington) gave Officer Lewis consent to search the vehicle," Valenzuela said. "(Moreland) was arguing with her as to why she was allowing the officer to search the vehicle."

"(Moreland) became very upset and belligerent," Whetten said in his written statement. "As he became even more angry, he returned to his vehicle and reached inside. Officer Lewis feared for his personal safety and the suspect was shot."

Moreland died later that day from his injuries.

Valenzuela said DPS has completed a search of the vehicle, but will not release any information on what was found or not found.

"The big question most people want to know is, was (Moreland) reaching for something that could have harmed the officer?" Valenzuela said. "We need to release that as quickly as we can without compromising the case."

Valenzuela said DPS is continuing to interview the two remaining witnesses to the incident -- Lewis and Worthington.

"In order to maintain the integrity of the investigation, we can't release certain information at this time," Valenzuela said. "If there are any other witnesses, then it could taint their testimony. If we go public with it, it could compromise the investigation."

Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores will examine the facts and determine if anyone involved broke the law.

"DPS will finish the investigation and then submit it to my office for possible criminal prosecution," Flores said.

Lewis, a three-year veteran of DPS, is on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation.

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