WAVERLY, Ohio (AP) — A former deputy sheriff accused of fatally shooting an unarmed man after a chase was found not guilty of murder and reckless homicide charges on Tuesday.
Joel Jenkins was working as a Pike County deputy when Robert Rooker was fatally shot. Jenkins, of Waverly, testified he was forced to fire on March 28, 2015, because he thought Rooker was leaning down to grab a weapon. He said he thought Rooker was going to kill him.
A Pike County jury deliberated about five hours before finding him not guilty.
A defense attorney said Jenkins was justified in firing at Rooker, who had sped away from a traffic stop in his vehicle and tried to ram law enforcement vehicles.
But special prosecutors from the state attorney general's office told jurors that Jenkins unnecessarily fired nine times through the windows of Rooker's stopped vehicle, hitting him seven times.
Rooker's truck was already immobilized after the chase when it ended up pinned against a tree, and Rooker wasn't a threat when he was killed, prosecutors said. Jenkins later made up a story about how he thought Rooker had reached for a gun before he shot him, they said.
Prosecutors were disappointed with the verdict but respect the jury's decision, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said.
The shooting happened after a 17-mile pursuit of Rooker, whose blood alcohol content was more than twice the legal limit when he died.
At the time of the shooting, Jenkins had been a deputy with the sheriff's office about two years.
Jenkins also has pleaded not guilty to charges including involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shooting of a neighbor in December 2015. Authorities said Jenkins, who was off-duty at the time of that shooting, told them that he was showing Jason Brady a gun when it went off accidentally. That shooting occurred in Jenkins' home.
A trial date hasn't been set in that case.