Never known to make violent threats, 25-year-old Hannah Fizer was on her way to work one night back in June when she was pulled over by a Pettis County sheriff’s deputy for speeding.
The Missouri deputy ended up killing her within six minutes of pulling her over, shooting at her five times as she sat in her car.
The still-unidentified Pettis County sheriff’s deputy was cleared of any wrongdoing last week.
The deputy claimed he feared for his life because she told him she had a gun and was going to kill him. The deputy also said she told him she was recording the traffic stop.
But no gun was ever found in Fizer’s Hyundai and no video has ever surfaced from her phone which was found on the floorboard of the front passenger seat, according to a search warrant. And no body or dash cam footage exists either because the agency says it cannot afford that type of technology.
However, special prosecutor Stephen Sokoloff says a surveillance video from a local restaurant shows Fizer “reached down into the floorboard of the car and raised up towards him” shortly before she was shot to death which is one reason why he found the shooting to be justified.
But that footage has not been made public nor has the deputy’s name been released even though the investigation is now closed.
Meanwhile, Fizer’s friends and family find it difficult to believe she would threaten to shoot an officer and have been protesting against the shooting death for the last three months.
Her father believes she was holding her cell phone in her hand which made the deputy fear for his life.
According to the New York Times:
She spent the last day of her life splashing around in a kiddie pool with her best friend, Taylor Browder, and Ms. Browder’s young children, talking about life and her future in Sedalia, an old railroad town of 21,000 people that is home to the Missouri State Fair. Ms. Fizer had attended the Sedalia Police Department’s citizen’s academy in 2016 but quickly decided she did not want to become a cop. She sometimes talked about working as a parole officer.
Ms. Browder said that Ms. Fizer headed home to the apartment she shared with her boyfriend to take a nap and shower before her overnight shift at the Eagle Stop gas station on the western edge of town.
At about 10 that night, a Pettis County sheriff’s deputy pulled her over for speeding. In an interview, Sheriff Kevin Bond said that the deputy “met with verbal resistance” when he walked up to Ms. Fizer’s car and that he told investigators she claimed she had a gun and threatened to kill him.
Ms. Fizer’s friends and family have a hard time believing that. Ms. Fizer’s boyfriend owned a gun, they said, but in a conservative county where the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, Ms. Fizer did not like guns or carry one.
Sokoloff explained his decision to the judge in a letter last week which you can read here.
“There are aspects the case that lead me to believe that an alternative approach might have avoided the confrontation that led to the officer having to discharge his weapon, but that is not relevant to a determination of whether criminal liability would attach. That determination is made somewhat more difficult by the abets of a body-worn camera with audio, as the video from the adjacent security system, although of good quality for such a system especially at night, is not totally clear. There is no audio record with the video, which has required investigator to try to coordinate the time between the dispatch audio (what there is of it) with the video to provide a more complete information package.
All the information received is internally consistent, and leads to the conclusion that the shooting, albeit possibly avoidable, was justifiable under current Missouri criminal law. The evidence indicates that the deceased, who had been stopped for multiple traffic violations and who had refused to provide any information to the officer, had advised him that she was recording him, and then shortly thereafter, that she had a gun and was going to shoot him.
At the time the officer discharged his weapon, she had reached down into the floorboard of the car and raised up towards him. Based on the information and circumstance available to the officer during the event, it cannot be said that the officer did not have a reasonable belief that he was in danger of serious physical injury or death from the actions of the deceased at the time he fired.
In the surveillance video footage, the deceased can be seen moving around the vehicle vigorously and bending down. She can be heard during the officer’s radio diptych yelling at hm, and he repeats her that that had a gun and is going to shoot him to Dispatch prior to him discharging his weapon. Just prior to the time the officer fired his weapon, the deceased appears to be raising up from a bent over position. The deputy advised that she was still reaching down, and he can be seen trying to force open the driver’s door, then takes a couple of steps towards the front of the vehicle, assuming a defensive stance just forward of the driver’s door. At the time of the discharge, the deceased cannot be seen, due to the officer’s position. All of this would support the officer’s claim that he was in fear for his safety.”
Sokollof makes no mention of any video evidence from Fizer’s phone but he does acknowledge the deputy’s claim that she was recording him.
Last we heard about Fizer’s phone was on June 22 when the Kansas City Star reported that the phone had been “sent to the state’s digital forensic center in Jefferson City for analysis and data extraction.” ‘
For all we know, the phone is still sitting in the lab without having been analyzed.