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ALBANY, N.Y. — One of the four Americans killed in a suicide bomb attack in Syria this week was a Navy sailor and married mother of two whose father is a high-ranking officer in the New York State Police, officials said Friday.
The Pentagon identified three of the four Americans killed in Wednesday’s attack in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.
They are Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jonathan R. Farmer, 37, of Boynton Beach, Florida, who was based at Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Navy Chief Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) Shannon M. Kent, 35, of Pine Plains, New York, and based at Fort Meade, Maryland; and a civilian, Scott A. Wirtz, from St. Louis.
The Pentagon hasn’t identified the fourth casualty, a civilian contractor.
The attack, claimed by the Islamic State group, also wounded three U.S. troops and was the deadliest assault on U.S. troops in Syria since American forces went into the country in 2015.
The Pentagon’s statement said Kent was from upstate New York but didn’t give a hometown. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Friday that she was from Pine Plains and was the daughter of state police field commander Col. Stephen Smith, the agency’s third-highest position.
“We owe her our eternal gratitude for her selfless dedication and sacrifice,” Cuomo said while ordering flags on state government buildings to be flown at half-staff in Kent’s honor.
Tara Grieb, principal of Stissing Mountain Junior-Senior High School in Pine Plains, said Kent grew up in the small, picturesque Hudson Valley town 90 miles (145 kilometers) north of New York City and graduated from the local high school in 2001.
Grieb said Kent moved away after enlisting in the Navy in 2003.
“She was an honor student and a fabulous person,” Grieb said. “We are proud of her and her service and we support her family 100 percent in their time of sorrow.”
Kent’s mother, Mary Smith, taught sixth grade in the district until retiring last year, Grieb said.
Kent, who lived in Maryland with her husband and two children, was assigned to the Cryptologic Warfare Activity 66 based at Fort George Meade.
Cryptologic technicians are part of the Navy’s intelligence-gathering apparatus, analyzing encrypted electronic communications and using computers and other technology to compile information on the nation’s enemies.
Cmdr. Joseph Harrison, the unit’s commanding officer, said in a statement that Kent “was a rockstar, an outstanding Chief Petty Officer, and leader to many in the Navy Information Warfare Community.”
Florida’s Palm Beach Post reported that Farmer’s parents loaded suitcases into a friend’s SUV on Friday morning before heading to Dover, Delaware, for the return of their son’s remains.
Duncan Farmer characterized his son as “a good man. Good son. Good father. Good husband.” Then he added, “A good friend.”
Duncan Farmer said they knew Jonathan, a Green Beret, was in Syria, but “we didn’t know exactly where.”
Jonathan Farmer was born in Boynton Beach, Florida, south of West Palm Beach. He grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, attending the Benjamin School before going to Bowdoin College in Maine.
His father said Jonathan Famer was in the military for 13 years and had been in dangerous places “many times,” including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.
He said services will be at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Palm Beach Gardens, but a date hasn’t been set. He said internment will be at Arlington National Cemetery.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson asked Missourians to pray for the family of Wirtz, a former Navy SEAL who was working for the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency as an operations support specialist.
Wirtz “died bravely serving our nation in a dangerous part of the world, and for that we are grateful,” Parson said.
Chad Sokol The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
COLVILLE, Wash. — A man previously unknown to law enforcement has returned 27 guns that were stolen last spring from the home of the Kettle Falls police chief.
The man called Chief Chris Courchene’s office on Monday, a day after The Spokesman-Review broke news of the April 6 burglary and the complicated, nine-month investigation that followed.
The man, whose name was not released, told authorities he had received the guns from Courchene’s ex-girlfriend, Alayna R. Smith, as collateral after she approached him asking for a loan, saying her aunt was sick. The man said he didn’t know the guns were stolen until he learned about it from the newspaper.
“It was only when the news story hit he connected the event and discovered Courchene was the victim,” the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office said in a Facebook post Thursday.
Sheriff’s Detective Bill Bitton, who had spent hundreds of hours investigating the burglary, met the man and retrieved the guns on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office said Smith, 34, had been the prime suspect since the start of the investigation, though prosecutors say she reached a plea deal earlier this month that ensures she won’t be charged in connection with the stolen guns.
Smith was arrested about a month after the burglary at a cabin in Northport, which she was renting with a credit card she had stolen from Courchene. She pleaded guilty Jan. 7 to three counts of theft, four counts of trafficking in stolen property, two counts of drug possession and 13 counts of identity theft.
Smith agreed to plead guilty to those 22 felonies after deputy prosecutor Erika George filed a motion indicating she planned to charge Smith in connection with the stolen guns. The way the case panned out procedurally would complicate any attempt to file those charges in a new case.
George said that until this week, authorities had only circumstantial evidence linking Smith to the guns, and so the plea deal seemed like the most reasonable conclusion to the unusual and protracted case.
“Obviously, I would have made a different decision had I had any recovery of the firearms,” George said.
Further complicating matters, Courchene waited one week to report the burglary to the sheriff’s office, during which time he attempted to investigate the crime himself. He told sheriff’s detectives he had twice sent Smith to meet a mysterious suspect and paid $1,250 in hopes of retrieving the weapons.
One firearm apparently remains unaccounted for, as 29 guns were initially stolen and Courchene managed to buy back one pistol from that unnamed suspect.
Smith was sentenced to more than three years in prison, followed by more than three years under state supervision. She is being held at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor.
In a phone call Thursday, Courchene said the man who returned the guns was credible and had no significant criminal record.
“He’s one of the good guys,” Courchene said. “I’m just glad that the guns didn’t hit the street.”
Courchene also acknowledged Thursday he had been in contact with Smith during the burglary investigation, visiting her in jail on more than one occasion.
Asked about the nature of those conversations, Courchene said, “That’s really hard to explain.”
“I visited her, yeah,” he said. “I was trying to get to the bottom of things. I was trying to play along and get to the bottom of what happened.”
Courchene added, “I wish I had a do-over on this, I can tell you that.”
©2019 The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.)
By J. David Marsey, P1 Contributor
The debate about Florida’s statutory immunity from criminal and civil liability – commonly referred to as the “stand your ground” law – reaches far and wide. Proponents and opponents alike have opined that the law needs revision and courts have disagreed over the application of its terms.
One area of frequent disagreement involves the application of the immunity to law enforcement officers acting within the course and scope of their employment. The Florida Supreme Court has finally spoken, and in doing so, resolved the conflict between Florida District Courts of Appeal.
After consideration of two conflicting lower court decisions and interpreting the law itself, the Court held that the clear and unambiguous statutory language affords law enforcement officers the same immunity provisions available to the public at large.
“I am glad to see that the Supreme Court brought some clarity to this issue. This decision affirms that ‘officers are people too’ and have the same rights and protections as the general public,” said Ponce Inlet Police Department Chief Frank G. Fabrizio.
At the core of this dispute are two similar, but substantively different, statutes.
Section 776.05, Florida Statutes, provides that a law enforcement officer need not retreat or desist from efforts to make a lawful arrest because of actual or threatened resistance from the person to be arrested. It also authorizes an officer to use any reasonably necessary force to defend himself or herself, or another person from harm while making an arrest, retaking an escaped felon, and when arresting a felon fleeing from justice.
Section 776.032, Florida Statutes – Florida’s Stand Your Ground law – provides that a “person” who uses or threatens to use lawful force is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action for the use or threatened use of force if enumerated circumstances exist.
District Courts Present Conflicting Decisions
In 2012, an officer was criminally charged with attempted battery and unsuccessfully asserted “stand your ground” immunity pursuant to Section 776.032.
In denying the officer’s entitlement to immunity from prosecution, the Second District Court of Appeal in State v. Caamano reasoned that the more specific statutory language applicable to law enforcement officers contained in Section 776.05 controlled over the more general provisions contained in Section 776.032 that applied to the public at large. Therefore, the court reasoned, the “stand your ground” immunity provision was unavailable to an on-duty police officer for force used in the making of an arrest.
In 2017, the issue was revisited by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in State v. Peraza, where an officer successfully moved to dismiss an indictment against him for manslaughter with a firearm after the officer shot a suspect who pointed an air rifle at him. In that case, the court reasoned that an officer using force while making an arrest was not limited by the specific statute applying to officers, but was also entitled to seek immunity under Section 776.032.
The Peraza court held that despite the specific statute applying to law enforcement, officers are also “persons” under the law, and that nothing under Florida’s “stand your ground” law excludes an officer making an arrest from the immunity provisions available to the general public. The Peraza court certified the conflict with Caamano as one of great public importance, thus paving the way for review by the Florida Supreme Court.
The Florida Supreme Court’s Ruling
In its review of Peraza, the Florida Supreme Court recognized the Caamano court’s efforts to harmonize different statutory provisions that applied to law enforcement and the more general “stand your ground” immunity statute. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court’s rationale and found that the two statutory provisions provided overlapping protections for law enforcement officers making an arrest. A noteworthy distinction recognized by the Supreme Court, but not considered by either of the lower courts, was the distinction between a defense and an immunity.
While the more specific law enforcement statue provides a defense for the use of force during an arrest, it does not include any immunity provisions. Conversely, the “stand your ground” statute provides an “immunity from prosecution” that is afforded to “any person” who uses lawful force under enumerated circumstances. Since there is no language excluding a law enforcement officer from the clear and unambiguous application to a “person,” a law enforcement officer is entitled to assert the “stand your ground” immunity defense.
What the Decision Means for Law Enforcement
“The Peraza case is a clear victory for Florida’s police officers. The assertion that our law enforcement officers should not have the same standing that our citizens enjoy is perplexing,” said Coconut Creek Police Department Chief Albert A. Arenal.
The Supreme Court’s decision reaffirms that “officers are people too” and are entitled to the full use of the “stand your ground” immunity defense that is applicable to the public at large. The importance of this decision cannot be overstated, because it provides officers a viable legal defense to prevent lengthy and costly criminal proceedings if they are able to show an entitlement to immunity at a pre-trial hearing.
Although the Supreme Court in Peraza addressed only the criminal charges before it, Florida’s “stand your ground” immunity provision provides immunity for both criminal and civil liability. Therefore, depending on the specific facts of the case, officers facing civil actions for the excessive use of force may have an additional opportunity to obtain dismissal prior to trial and the denial of immunity may provide the potential for pre-trial appellate review. Law enforcement executives and their counsel should familiarize themselves with these new standards and continue to monitor this developing area of law.
About the author
J. David Marsey is a former police officer, investigator and prosecutor and is a partner at the law firm of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in Tallahassee, Florida. He defends and advises corporations, government entities and their employees on casualty, employment and constitutional issues throughout the state. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.