A jury on Thursday found the man accused of killing an Adams County sheriff’s deputy in 2018 guilty of first-degree felony murder of a peace officer after a five-week trial and about two days of deliberation.
Dreion Dearing, 24, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for killing 31-year-old Deputy Heath Gumm, who was a five-year veteran of the sheriff’s department and was known as a leader who cared deeply for the communities he policed. Dearing also was convicted of first-degree burglary and related counts.
Dearing shot Gumm when the deputy tried to stop him for questioning on Jan. 24, 2018, because Dearing matched the description of a suspect in an assault that had just happened nearby in the 8700 block of Dawson Street. Dearing is also accused of carrying out that assault and burglary.
During the extensive trial, Dearing’s public defenders argued that Dearing fired in self-defense as he ran from the deputy, and only fired at Gumm after the deputy shot first. The defense attorneys sought to show the jury that a pattern of racial discrimination wrongly skewed the legal system against Dearing.
Prosecutors denied any racial bias and said that Dearing ambushed Gumm during the chase, taking up a position behind the corner of a house and firing first at the officers from the cover of darkness. During closing arguments Tuesday, Assistant District Attorney Jess Redman told the jury that Dearing had a chance to get away from police during the 42 seconds between the moment he started to run and the moment shots were reported, but he stopped and instead chose to fire at the deputies.
“Why did he stop?” Redman said. “The element of surprise. Ambush. Because around the corner, no one can see where you are. It’s dark. It’s quiet. And as Deputies Gumm and Booker came around this corner they instantly suffered an ambush.”
Joseph Archambault, chief trial deputy with the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office, said the physical evidence at the crime scene didn’t support that version of events, but rather showed Gumm fired first.
“Mr. Dearing was running,” he said Tuesday. “And as he was running, a shot rings out, it goes right over his shoulder and he hits the ground…He’s down on the ground and he knows he is about to die. In that moment he instinctively acted in self preservation.”
Dearing fired seven shots; two struck Gumm and killed him. Gumm and another deputy who were chasing Dearing together fired seven shots at Dearing.
17th Judicial District Attorney Dave Young told the jury during closing arguments that Dearing’s race did not influence the case.
“This case is not about race,” he said. “This case has never been about race…This is about his actions. And I don’t care who is sitting at that table. Whatever that person’s actions are, they should be held accountable for those actions. He’s guilty. He’s guilty of each and every charge.”
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