Former Chandler police officer Dan Lovelace will keep his state certification as a police officer and be eligible to work at any law enforcement agency in Arizona, whether or not Chandler decides to rehire him, the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training board decided Wednesday.
The board, which certifies all police officers in the state, was responding to a complaint filed by Chandler police that Lovelace violated department policies that led to the shooting death of Dawn Rae Nelson, including use of excessive lethal force and disorderly conduct.
Board members deliberated for an hour and decided that there was no reason to pull Lovelace’s certification.
"Officer Lovelace’s recollection of the sequence of events is both possible and plausible," the report stated.
"The board’s investigation revealed no evidence or information that disproves Officer Lovelace’s statement."
The board’s findings are another victory for Lovelace, who is trying to get his job back after the city fired him for shooting and killing the 35-year-old Ahwatukee Foothills woman on Oct. 11, 2002, in a Walgreens drive-through pharmacy as she attempted to fill a fake prescription.
He was acquitted in July of second-degree murder and reckless endangerment.
"I think it’s wonderful that the board has agreed with a unanimous verdict of the jury that Dan Lovelace has consistently, since the night of the event, told the truth," said Craig Mehrens, Lovelace’s attorney during the criminal proceedings.
"He has the right to be a police officer."
Tom Hammarstrom, executive director of the board, said Lovelace’s case was an unusual one for the board to hear.
"When judgment is in question, that is usually considered by the appointing agency," Hammarstrom said.
"It’s unusual to review cases about shooting incidents when an issue of policy is going on."
Hammarstrom said the board ultimately decided that this was not a situation that fell under their guidelines for revoking an officer’s certification.
Chandler police filed the complaint shortly after the shooting, but the board waited until the outcome of the trial before going ahead with their own investigation.
Lovelace also has filed a $1 million lawsuit against Chandler, Maricopa County and several employees on the grounds that he was falsely investigated, and that false evidence and testimony were presented against him during the judicial process.
The lawsuit also claims libel, slander and wrongful discharge.