‘She was justified’: Judge dismisses murder charge against woman who killed pro bull rider
Jan 3, 2024, 6:40 PM
SALT LAKE CITY — A judge decided Wednesday that it does not matter whether a woman knew it was her boyfriend who was breaking into her home, or whether the man had belongings in her home.
He ruled that she was legally justified when she killed the man.
“She was justified in shooting the gun,” 3rd District Judge Mark Kouris said.
Kouris dismissed the murder charge against Lashawn Denise Bagley, 23, for the death of Demetrius Allen, a professional bull rider, during a justification hearing Wednesday. He also dismissed nine counts of felony discharge of a firearm, one first-degree felony and eight third-degree felonies, against the woman.
Bagley called 911 at 12:04 a.m. on Sept. 12, 2022, to report someone breaking into her home. After some loud noises, the dispatcher asked what was happening and she said, “I’m shooting,” according to testimony Wednesday from the Salt Lake police detective Nathan Wiley.
Officers found Allen, 27, with a gunshot wound. He was taken to the hospital where he later died. Allen was known by fans as “Ouncie Mitchell,” according to Professional Bull Riders CEO Sean Gleason.
The shooting occurred just hours after Allen competed in the Utah State Fairpark. Allen, Bagley and another woman left the apartment to go to a club about 9:30 p.m. that night and Bagley came home on her own around 11:30 p.m., according to Wiley’s testimony.
Defense attorney Sherry Valdez argued that there were people breaking into Bagley’s home in the middle of the night, and when someone is breaking into your home, self-defense is presumed to be reasonable.
“LaShawn owned the gun. She had every right to protect herself in her own house,” Valdez said.
The judge said Bagley is a smaller person, lived in a high-crime area on the ground floor, and it was midnight.
He said there was testimony showing a woman with Allen tried to break into the home twice before the 911 call, including with a credit card. The judge said at an earlier hearing the woman testified that Allen picked up a large rock and said, “I’m from Houston, we can get in,” after she told him she had not been able to break in.
Salt Lake County deputy district attorney Andrew Deesing argued that Bagley had “no reasonable fear.”
He showed texts between Bagley and Allen within the hour before the 911 call showing Allen saying he wanted to retrieve his belongings from inside the home. He said the man had been staying at the home and Bagley could have put his belongings on the front porch.
Kouris responded that Bagley only needed to know that someone was breaking into her home in order to defend herself. He said it’s not reasonable for someone to be able to lawfully break a window with a rock just because they left something inside the home. He also noted that there was no evidence Bagley had read the texts where Allen said he wanted his belongings, or knew that it was actually Allen at the door.
Bagley was released from custody in November after spending almost 11 months in jail after prosecutors asked to delay the justification hearing and she was allowed to go stay with her family in Texas.
Under a state law that took effect in May 2021, a person charged with a crime of unlawful use of force can request a justification hearing in front of a judge up to 28 days before a case goes to trial. The law shifts the decision about whether someone acted in defense of themselves or someone else from a jury to a judge, who might have to rule based on limited pretrial evidence.
If a defendant is able to bring credible evidence he or she acted in self-defense, prosecutors must prove with “clear and convincing evidence” — a high legal bar — that the person was not justified in the use of force. If prosecutors are not able to meet that burden of proof, the judge can dismiss the charges with prejudice, meaning they cannot be refiled.