Fatal DPS shooting of passenger stuns driver - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Fatal DPS shooting of passenger stuns driver

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Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2004 11:05 am | Updated: 4:57 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

The gunshots still echo in Janice Worthington’s mind.

She can see her boyfriend collapsing to the ground only feet away after a state highway patrol officer fatally shot him Saturday.

She remembers her screams.

"I knew in my heart he wasn’t going to make it," the 46-year-old Apache Junction woman said between sobs Wednesday. "No one comes out alive with three shots point-blank to the chest."

Officer Jarom Lewis shot James Moreland after he made an "aggressive movement" and caused the officer to fear for his life during a traffic stop on state Route 87 near Payson, said officer Frank Valenzuela, an Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman. It does not appear that Moreland was armed, but the officer may have believed Moreland was reaching for a weapon.

Friends and family of the 47-year-old Apache Junction man struggle to understand how things went so wrong, so quickly.

Worthington said she and Moreland were headed to a friend’s cabin when she saw the flashing lights behind her.

The officer asked Worthington, who was driving, to stand behind the car, and she admitted she was driving about 10 mph over the speed limit, she said.

"Then he started asking me if I was on drugs, asking if I was on methamphetamines, if I had any pipes in the car," Worthington said.

She gave the officer permission to search the car, and the officer went around to the passenger side to tell Moreland.

When Moreland got out of the car, he asked her why she gave the officer permission to search the car, she said.

Then she heard the gunshots. Moreland was flown to John C. Lincoln Hospital North in Phoenix, where he died soon after.

Authorities said Moreland was acting aggressively and disobeyed Lewis’ command to step away from the car.

"He never raised his voice at me. He was standing right there making no movement. I can’t imagine why the officer feared for his life," Worthington said. "I wasn’t even able to say goodbye to him."

Charlie Ory, Moreland’s boss at Aero Propane in Apache Junction where Moreland worked for five years, said coworkers were stunned.

"It’s like we lost a brother," Ory said.

"I don’t believe I’ve heard him raise his voice in that entire time. He just didn’t like confrontation at all."

Lewis, 26, who is based in the Payson area, has been placed on paid leave pending an investigation — normal procedure in officer-involved shootings. He has been with DPS for three years.

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