Criminal charges will not be filed against Department of Public Safety officer Jarom Lewis for the Sept. 25, 2004 fatal shooting of James Moreland on Beeline Highway south of Payson.
In a March 1 letter to DPS Interim Director David Felix, Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores wrote, "After careful review by our charging panel it is our determination that no criminal charges are warranted against officer Lewis."
Flores summed up her findings saying, "Lewis was justified in the use of lethal force in response to this non-compliant irate suspect."
Lewis said he did not wish to comment about the county attorney's decision.
The vindication of the officer, does not mean Lewis will immediately return to his job as a highway patrolman.
According to DPS Payson Supervisor John Whetten, Lewis will undergo a voluntary session with a department psychologist before returning to work.
"He'll be replaying this over and over in his head," Whetten said. "Maybe wondering if there could have been different outcomes.
"This has affected him, he's even talked about quitting. He's a sports nut, he's talked about going into sports medicine."
Whetten, however, anticipated Lewis will continue his career with DPS.
"I expect him back some time next week," Whetten said.
When he does return, he'll initially have only administrative responsibilities.
Also, because he has not worked as an officer for about six months, he'll take some retraining classes.
The officer's challenge when he returns to the highways, Whetten said, will be to react as he has been trained if he ever faces the same situation again.
Began as speeding only
The shooting occurred 2 miles south of Rye after Lewis, a three-year DPS veteran stationed in Payson, stopped a car driven by Janice Worthington, 46, of Apache Junction for speeding.
According to DPS and Flores' findings, Moreland -- passenger in the car --xited the vehicle during the stop and became visibly upset that Worthington gave permission for Lewis to search the car.
According to reports, the situation escalated when Moreland refused Lewis' orders first to return to the car and later not to move.
The county attorney's findings detail those tense moments before the shooting.
"Mr Moreland took several steps towards officer Lewis.
"At that point, officer Lewis unlocked the retention strap which holds his handgun in the holster ... and even stepped off the roadway in the grass.
"Mr. Moreland then turned his back to officer Lewis and quickly returned to the vehicle. Mr. Moreland re-entered the car through the open door and reached behind the front passenger seat ... at that point officer Lewis removed his weapon and pointed at Mr. Moreland's back but did not fire.
"Mr Moreland, then in a bent position, turned his head and rapidly rotated his upper body to the left ...
"Reasonably believing Mr. Moreland had or was retrieving a weapon, officer Lewis shot four times ..."
Lewis later told DPS investigators, he was certain Moreland was going to shoot him.
"I'm sure that this is it, I'm going to get shot," Lewis said. "I fired, boom, boom, boom, I'm thinking, ‘stop it, stop the threat'."
Worthington later claimed the fatal shooting of her boyfriend was completely unjustified and Moreland never gave the officer a legitimate reason to kill him.
Worthington said that Moreland never made a movement for something in the vehicle as Lewis claimed.
"Jim had nothing in his hands and was not reaching for anything in the car," she said. "Jim was not carrying any kind of weapon and there were no weapons in the car."
She also disputed Lewis' claim that Moreland was "belligerent" and said he was a patient, loving man who never raised his voice.
Flores' findings, however, discounted Worthington's account as being "diminished by several important factors."
Among those was the fact Worthington lied to Lewis, DPS investigators and the media when she said that Moreland had not used any drugs and there were no drugs in the car.
In fact, the two stopped in Sunflower to smoke marijuana with friends, DPS reports say.
According to county attorney's report, after the shooting Worthington was asked to give a blood sample and refused. A search warrant was obtained for the sample which showed a positive response for tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, the active ingredient in marijuana.
"Also, a green tint to her tongue was noted, an indication of recent ingestion of marijuana," Flores said.
DPS released a 400-page report that revealed they found no weapons in the car, but about 3 grams of marijuana and a pipe were found in Worthington's purse in the car.
Flores also found that Worthington's account of the interaction between Lewis and Moreland just prior to the shooting was not accurate.
"Her account of these facts are simply less believable than the officer's details of the incident," Flores said. "The autopsy indicates the trajectory of the bullet is consistent with officer Lewis' description of Mr. Moreland's position and inconsistent with Mrs. Worthington's description."
Worthington could not be contacted for comment following the release of the findings by DPS and the county attorney.
The Valley phone number at which she was previously reached, is out of service.