No charges are being sought after a man was found unresponsive after an altercation in June 2019 in Green Ridge.
A grand jury has decided to not return an indictment in the death of James Andrew Gill, 32, of Pilot Grove.
According to a news release, Pettis County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to an assault in progress in the 200 block of East Henry Street in Green Ridge just after 6:30 p.m. June 12, 2019. Upon arrival, several subjects were found outside the residence, including an unresponsive man later identified as Gill. Deputies performed CPR and deployed an AED on Gill until Pettis County Ambulance District personnel arrived.
According to Pettis County Prosecuting Attorney Phillip Sawyer, he submitted the case to the grand jury in June 2020 with charges for the jury to consider. After roughly an hour of testimony and review of evidence, no indictment was returned.
Sawyer said the evidence he possessed came from phone logs from the parties calling dispatch, 911 and each other and photos of the scene. He also had the statements of everyone on scene who was questioned and/or gave a statement, the first responding officer’s observations and the medical examiner’s report.
According to the evidence available, Sawyer explained it was “somewhat unclear” what sparked the agitation on the day of the incident. Gill apparently called a family member and notified them he “had enough” and he was going to the Green Ridge residence and an altercation was going to occur. Some of Gill’s family then began to make an effort to locate him and/or get somebody there.
Upon Gill’s arrival to the residence, witnesses accounted he pulled up quickly and there are skid marks consistent with him pulling up quickly and slamming on the breaks, according to Sawyer. Witnesses indicated Gill got out of his vehicle and struck an individual who was kneeling on the ground working on a vehicle. The individual had injuries consistent with that description. Law enforcement was called after the first blow occurred.
Three or four people either at the residence or in close proximity began assisting in ending the altercation and eventually restraining and detaining Gill. An individual who had a vehicle on scene had handcuffs in their vehicle which were used to handcuff Gill behind his back. He was placed on the ground on his stomach.
According to the witnesses, Gill continued to resist, fight and move around. An individual obtained a rope and tied Gill’s feet while he continued to fight and resist. Gill was detained on his stomach.
“It is unclear from the evidence and I have no ability to prove whether he was truly continuing to fight or resist or whether he was already to the point that he was fighting for air,” Sawyer said.
At some point between his feet being tied and law enforcement’s arrival, Gill died. According to witnesses, shortly before law enforcement arrived they noticed Gill had stopped resisting. They rolled him over and attempted to render aid. This is consistent with the first responding officer’s observations who said Gill was already unconscious and individuals were over him and appeared to be rendering aid, according to Sawyer.
Sawyer said the medical examiner ruled Gill’s cause of death to be positional asphyxiation. Sawyer said he was told it can be exacerbated by a high-stress moment and that it can be a fairly quick passing or it can be longer and drawn out. Adrenaline also may speed up the process.
Sawyer also said the altercation was physical, between two people and “Mr. Gill was upset and went there based on that anger.” There was no indication of drugs in Gill’s system, Gill being under the influence or that Gill was drugged or overdosed, according to the medical examiner.
“There were no substantial injuries that were consistent with any sort of blunt force trauma,” Sawyer said. “There were no injuries that were consistent with a long, drawn-out fight. The medical examiner concluded that he passed based on the position that he was in.”
Sawyer explained that in Missouri, an accidental death occurring during the process of enforcement or justification is excusable other than proving that somebody knowingly attempted to cause an injury or that they acted with criminal negligence.
“Essentially that they recognized that they either caused the danger or the injury themselves intentionally or that they acted with criminal negligence and elected to deviate from an otherwise a gross deviation from the standard care,” Sawyer explained.
Sawyer said he had “absolutely nothing to establish that they intentionally or knowingly caused this death.” He asked the grand jury to consider whether this constituted manslaughter, to consider whether the individuals acted with recklessness causing the death of another or whether it was criminal negligence in both scenarios. Sawyer did not receive an indictment in either scenario from the grand jury.
“The question I chose to present to the grand jury is, after Mr. Gill had been detained and restrained, did those actions become a separate event from the defense of themselves or their property?” Sawyer said. “Effectively what I had to ask the grand jury to consider is whether or not the parties that acted, acted with recklessness or criminal negligence that resulted in the death of Mr. Gill.”
Sawyer believed everybody involved thought the individuals were justified in protecting themselves but the question he had to ask the jury to consider was whether that protection became separate when they chose to handcuff him and tie his legs.
“What I was asking the jury to consider is whether, when they had him on the ground, whether the keeping him there or holding him there or continuing to hold him there while they perceived him to be resisting, whether the handcuffing and the tying of his legs created a gross deviation from a standard of care,” he said.
Sawyer said if new evidence becomes available or other witnesses come forward, he and law enforcement will look into it.
“I have presented the evidence that I currently possess,” Sawyer told the Democrat. “If something new came to light it would of course be subject to review. If new witnesses came forward that would be subject to review. For the time being, I’m in possession of everything I know of that’s out there. I don’t know that I have anything else to move forward on unless or until somebody comes forward with new evidence or testimony.”