In a story written by Kristin Hoppa at the St. Joseph News Press, Andrew Country Prosecutor Steven Stevenson said two Buchanan County deputies acted lawfully in the shooting death of a Gower, Mo., man following a Halloween night pursuit.
The decision, filed Wednesday by Mr. Stevenson, stated that two Buchanan County Drug Strike Force deputies, William P. Miller and William J. Fisher, were on duty in an unmarked sheriffâ€™s department vehicle when they observed a red Dodge Charger spin its wheels and proceed west on Frederick Avenue, the report said.
The deputies then witnessed the vehicle go in the wrong direction on Jules Street and proceed on Ninth Street.
â€śAt that time the officers activated their emergency lights (but not their siren) to stop the vehicle for the traffic violation ...,â€ť Mr. Stevenson wrote in the decision. â€śThe red Dodge Charger failed to stop, drove through an intersection and continued north on Ninth Street, at which time the officers activated their sirens.â€ť
The officers later turned their sirens off but followed the vehicle to monitor its location. The driver, later identified as Eric Christopher Auxier, 28, accelerated onto St. Joseph Avenue at speeds of 70 to 90 mph into Andrew County, where officers reactivated the pursuit.
The pursuit ended near Amazonia, Mo., when Mr. Auxierâ€™s vehicle turned from County Road 373 into a parking lot. Mr. Fisher, the driver of the deputiesâ€™ vehicle, swung into the parking lot with the passenger side of the his vehicle facing the rear of the Dodge.
Mr. Miller, the passenger of the sheriffâ€™s vehicle, opened the passenger door and exited the vehicle. Mr. Fisher did the same. The Dodge backed into the passenger side door, pinning Mr. Millerâ€™s leg between the vehicles.
â€śDeputy Fisher could hear Deputy Miller screaming in pain, but could not see him as he had fallen backwards into the car seat of the Buchanan County Sheriffâ€™s vehicle,â€ť the statement read. â€śDeputy Fisher drew his service firearm and fired â€¦ into the rear window on the driverâ€™s side of the red Dodge Charger, which was approaching him in reverse.â€ť
Mr. Fisher then fired twice into the left rear passenger window and the driverâ€™s side window. The vehicle then proceeded forward, past Mr. Fisher, before it struck a mailbox stand and a wooden post where it came to rest.
Although Mr. Fisher recalled four shots being fired, the report concluded that six shots were fired by Mr. Fisher. Five rounds struck the driver, Mr. Auxier, and the sixth struck the driverâ€™s headrest. Mr. Auxier was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr. Auxier had an outstanding warrant from Putnam County, Mo. He was in the car with passengers Brittany Anderson, 24, and Daniel Nelson, 33.
According to statements provided to law enforcement, the back seat passenger, Mr. Nelson, advised Mr. Auxier that law enforcement was trying to pull the vehicle over when he said, â€śNo, weâ€™re not. Iâ€™m running.â€ť
Mr. Nelson repeatedly demanded that the vehicle stop. Mr. Auxier continued and his female passenger, Ms. Anderson, said, â€śBe quiet and chill, heâ€™s (Mr. Auxier) got this, heâ€™ll get us out of this.â€ť
Mr. Auxier had previously been convicted of at least four felonies, ranging from burglary, resisting arrest and several misdemeanors. Autopsy reports indicated that Mr. Auxier had an elevated blood-alcohol content at the time of the incident.
â€śThe State finds this shooting of Auxier by Deputy Fisher was completely justified and that there is no basis for criminal charges against Deputy Fisher,â€ť Mr. Stevenson wrote. â€śHis use of deadly force â€¦ was clearly a result of his reasonable belief that such force was necessary to protect himself and partner from death or serious physical injury.
â€śâ€¦ Deputy Fisher is to be commended for his courage, not to mention his composure in this highly charged emotional situation as the evidence indicates he fired six rounds from his service firearm during this deadly encounter and avoided hitting two passengers, although the backseat passenger did receive a slight wound to his leg of some sort.â€ť
In addition to Mr. Stevensonâ€™s decision, he charged Ms. Anderson on Nov. 12 with a misdemeanor assault and property damage for damaging a patrol car window and spitting in an Andrew County deputyâ€™s face after the pursuit and shooting.
Mr. Stevenson stated that the investigation into the pursuit and shooting death of Mr. Auxier is complete.
â€śObviously we feel that their actions were justified,â€ť said Col. Bill Puett with the Buchanan County Sheriffâ€™s Department. â€śOur goal is always to enforce laws and make sure that everything goes smoothly without incident, but some incidents do occur and officers have to respond accordingly, especially when they are defending themselves.â€ť
Mr. Puett said an internal investigation by the Sheriffâ€™s Department will begin under Sheriff Mike Strongâ€™s review. He added that the injured deputy remains on leave, under doctorâ€™s orders, but anticipated Mr. Fisherâ€™s return soon.