OFFICER SARAH BERKEY AND CASTLE LAWS

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An off-duty Kent, Ohio police officer shot her ex-boyfriend twice in her home in Munroe Falls, Ohio, killing him. Sarah Berkey says Adam Robert Jovicic (29), had broken into her home after 1 a.m. and she can be heard asking for help on a 911 call. Officers responding to the call said they could hear two gunshots from inside the home as they were coming up the driveway. Berkey had shot Jovicic twice in the abdomen and he died later at the area hospital. Jovicic had been convicted of a disorderly conduct charge stemming from an incident involving a prior girlfriend; in that case, police records said he had punched the girl in the face. Berkey has been one of 25 patrol officers for the city since 2008 and has been placed on paid leave according to Kent Police Lt. James Prusha, the news media liaison.

COMMENT: Since 2011, Ohio law no longer requires the victim of a home invasion to wait for the intruder to retreat before using deadly force. The adoption of the so-called castle laws, as written in Ohio, create a presumption that a person has acted in self-defense when using deadly force against someone who has unlawfully entered the person’s house. The reported “facts” in this case seem to identify Jovicic as an intruder (and possibly under the influence of something), however, the definition is murkier when the intruder is not a stranger. The broader question here, invites an investigation into the relationship between the two, and whether the officer’s use of deadly force impacts on her general performance as a police officer. That is usually the stuff of internal investigations, however, as we have seen in Wisconsin, outside investigations increase public trust in shooting cases involving police officers.

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