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The People of the State of Illinois v. Rondal Kirchner

July 17, 2012

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
RONDAL KIRCHNER,
DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County. No. 09-CF-3731 Honorable Gary V. Pumilia, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Jorgensen

PRESIDING JUSTICE JORGENSEN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Hutchinson and Schostok concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 Following a bench trial, the court convicted defendant, Rondal Kirchner, of attempting to disarm a peace officer (720 ILCS 5/31-1a(b) (West Supp. 2009)) and sentenced him to five years' imprisonment. On appeal, defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 In the early morning of October 19, 2009, Sean Hughes and Neil Roberts, two Winnebago County sheriff's deputies, were dispatched to 1271 Chadbourne in Davis in response to a domestic violence call. Before they arrived at the scene, dispatch informed them that the suspect was defendant. Dispatch also told them that defendant was wanted on a parole warrant and was possibly armed with a knife. Hughes and Roberts arrived separately at the scene, in marked cars and dressed in full uniform. Hughes was wearing his duty belt, which carried his flashlight, baton, Taser, ammunition, and firearm.

¶ 4 Because defendant was potentially armed, Hughes drew his firearm and Roberts drew his Taser as they approached the residence. Hughes and Roberts heard yelling and screaming coming from the residence as a young female exited the rear door. Soon after, a woman with facial injuries also exited the rear door and told Hughes and Roberts that defendant was inside the residence.

¶ 5 With their weapons still drawn, Hughes and Roberts entered the residence. Defendant was in the bathroom, urinating with the door open, and was unarmed. Consequently, Hughes and Roberts holstered their weapons. Hughes asked defendant to show his hands, but defendant refused and continued to urinate. Hughes and Roberts entered the bathroom, and Hughes gripped the inside of defendant's right elbow while Roberts grabbed defendant's left arm. Hughes told defendant that he was under arrest for a parole hold. Once defendant had finished urinating, Hughes and Roberts asked him to put his hands behind his back, but defendant refused, tensed his arms, and stated, "You're going to have to work for this one."

¶ 6 According to Hughes and Roberts, defendant began to struggle with them. Hughes tried to tase defendant, but his Taser malfunctioned. As he tried to fix the Taser, Hughes felt a tugging on his firearm in its holster, which was on his duty belt near his right hip. Hughes testified that defendant reached back with his right hand to grab Hughes' firearm. Hughes and Roberts had been trained that, if a suspect grabs for a handgun, it is a dangerous situation that requires the use of weapons-retention tactics and, possibly, deadly force. Hughes yelled, "Get your hands off my gun," as a verbal command to defendant and an alert to Roberts. Hughes then used a weapons-retention maneuver to trap defendant's hand on the handgun with his elbow. Hughes then twisted his elbow, forcing defendant's hand off of the gun. During Hughes' testimony, he physically demonstrated this maneuver to the court, illustrating the position of the gun in relation to his body and defendant's hand. While Hughes performed this maneuver, Roberts delivered blows to defendant's head. After the maneuver, Hughes no longer felt the pressure on his gun. Hughes told defendant not to touch his weapon again, informing Roberts that defendant no longer had his hand on Hughes' gun. Hughes was then able to successfully tase defendant, who fell to the ground but continued to resist being handcuffed. Eventually, Hughes and Roberts were able to handcuff defendant and take him into custody.

¶ 7 Defendant testified and denied knowingly touching Hughes' firearm or intending to disarm Hughes. During his testimony, defendant also physically demonstrated his position in relation to Hughes, Roberts, and Hughes' handgun.

¶ 8 In issuing its finding, the court stated:

"As [Hughes] testified, he has to put his hand back in order to reach his firearm. That's an important thing. Because when Hughes demonstrated it, it was not a comfortable position that he was demonstrating, reaching back and slightly behind the side to grab the handle of the firearm. *** Getting your hand up on the gun is a difficult thing. If you're trying to grab [Hughes' handgun], it's difficult. If you're not trying to grab it, it would be practically impossible because of the location of the weapon. The only reason-the only way a hand could be back there [on Hughes' handgun] is if it's intentionally back there trying to grab the weapon. Now the issue is what was [defendant's] hand doing back there, because there is no doubt it was back there. When [defendant] was bending over and demonstrating things, he had his right hand stretched out behind him. *** You just can't do that *** without trying to grab the gun."

ΒΆ 9 The trial court convicted defendant of attempting to disarm a peace officer and sentenced him to five years' ...


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