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Jury deliberates following closing arguments in Adams County deputy murder trial

Dreion Dearing is charged with first-degree murder in the deadly shooting of Deputy Heath Gumm in January 2018.

ADAMS COUNTY, Colo. — The fate of the man tried for first-degree murder in the shooting and killing of Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm is now in the hands of the jury following Tuesday's closing arguments.

The prosecution's closing argument focused on how the actions of Dreion Dearing were not justifiable as self-defense.

“You don't shoot a law enforcement officer. You don't ambush a law enforcement officer who's not even prepared to react,” the prosecution said. "The defendant's actions are not legally justified."

Dearing's public defenders argued that Dearing was in fact acting in self-defense that night. They claimed that evidence shows deputy Gumm fired his gun first, and left Dearing with no choice but to try and save his own life by firing back in response.

“Shots were fired over Mr. Dearing's shoulder, and that's what starts the gunfire. That's what started a gunfight," Attorney Joe Archambault said. "Dearing was not the initial aggressor."

Archambault also argued that Dearing was too intoxicated to have made a reasonable decision that night and that he did not intend to assault or kill anyone.

17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young responded to this in his rebuttal argument saying, "It's not just intoxication. You have to look at the defendant's actions. Obviously he was capable of pointing and firing a gun seven times and hitting deputy Gumm twice.”

The closing arguments were initially set to take place at 1 p.m. Monday. On Monday afternoon, the jury heard instructions and was then released for the day. Court resumed at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Dearing, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in Gumm’s death, which happened the night of Jan. 24, 2018. Dearing was initially scheduled to stand trial earlier this year, but a judge declared a mistrial in part due to the coronavirus pandemic. The proceeding was subsequently rescheduled. 

> Video above: A tribute to Deputy Gumm.

Credit: KUSA
Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm

Dozens of witnesses appeared in court over the course of the trial, now in its fifth week. Dearing chose not to testify.

Throughout the trial, jurors have heard conflicting arguments from Young and Dearing’s public defenders about what exactly happened that night nearly two years ago. 

RELATED: Vigil marks one year since death of Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm

The main points of discussion are centered around the events that brought Dearing to the area that night, who fired their weapon first and whether Dearing was acting in self-defense when he fired his gun seven times.

The shooting happened in a neighborhood southeast of Washington Street and East 88th Avenue. Young said it began with a burglary call just before 6:58 p.m., when Dearing showed up at a former teacher’s apartment who had allegedly sexually assaulted his cousin.

The teacher and others who were at the apartment that night served as witnesses in the trial. They claimed that Dearing’s cousin, a minor at the time, and the teacher’s girlfriend at the time, got into a fight earlier that day in a parking lot near the teacher's apartment. 

The teacher claimed later that night, after the two fought, Dearing showed up at his apartment and punched him and his friend and stole his and his friends' phones and wallets. Evidence showed that car keys that belonged to Dearing’s car were dropped in the apartment after the incident.

Prosecutors said that Dearing ran from the apartment when police arrived, and then climbed onto a deck at a nearby house and fired at Gumm, who shot back after he fell to the ground with a gunshot wound to his chest. After that, Young said Dearing ran across the street and unloaded his gun near a van. That weapon – which prosecutors said was linked to the bullets that killed Gumm – had Dearing’s blood and fingerprints on it.

Public defenders and prosecutors argued over who shot first leading up to Gumm’s death. Defenders said that Dearing was not the initial aggressor, and that Gumm pointed his weapon and was in a combative stance before Dearing shot, claiming that Dearing was acting out of self-defense. Prosecutors said Dearing was lying in wait and that it was a choice for Dearing to fire back seven times

RELATED: Attorneys offer different accounts of the night that led to the death of an Adams County deputy

Police followed Dearing’s footprints through surrounding yards, picking up his lost hat along the way, before they traced him to a treehouse just 150 feet from where Gumm was shot, Young said.

Archambault said what happened next indicated the Adams County Sheriff’s Office was not able to treat Dearing objectively during an investigation that involved the death of one of their own.

“Officers called him a 'sad sack of [expletive],' they had their guns drawn on him,” he said. “Deputies said 'give me a [expletive] excuse.'"

Sgt. Christopher Gruenberger, who was on the scene as an on-call detective the night of Jan. 24, 2018, served as a witness in the trial and said he followed foot prints in the snow to the tree house, where they then knocked the treehouse down and used a K9 to search it. They then pulled the man out of the tree house and arrested him.

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