Daviess County Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Kuegel confirmed that David Turley, Sr., the man responsible for shooting Owensboro Police Officer Zach Morris on Oct. 10, received an indictment from the Daviess County grand jury for first-degree assault.
The indictment was returned yesterday afternoon, Kuegel said. The facts that have been made public in various police reports were what led the grand jury to return the indictment, according to Kuegel.
Kuegel said Turley is scheduled to appear in court after Judge Castlen issued a summons for his arraignment. In the meantime, there is no warrant for Turley’s arrest. Because a summons was ordered, Turley will not be in jail leading up to the Dec. 14 arraignment.
The shooting occurred in the early hours of Oct. 10 in the 500 block of Hathaway Street. Turley said publicly that he feared for his life when he shot Officer Morris in the abdomen. Morris underwent surgery for the injury before being released from Owensboro Health Regional Hospital. Morris has since returned home, but not back to work.
According to Kentucky State Police reports, Morris was conducting a search for a person believed to be acting suspiciously when gunfire was exchanged between Turley and himself. Morris’ shots did not hit or injure anyone involved.
Kuegel clarified that it’s not up to him as to whether or not Turley is allowed to speak before the grand jury — it’s up to the grand jury as to whether or not they want to hear from Turley.
“Some things have been said regarding Turley testifying before the grand jury,” Kuegel said. “They [the grand jury] are the ones who make the decision to allow a defendant, or a person of interest in this case, to testify. If that person notifies me in writing — if that letter is presented to me — the letter is then presented to the grand jury, and they make the decision as to who they hear from or not.”
Turley’s attorney, Evan Taylor, said he sent Kuegel a letter three to four weeks prior to the indictment, asking that Turley be able to explain his case to the grand jury.
“In 25 years of practicing law, do you know how many times I’ve let that happen?” Taylor asked. “But in this case, I thought that might be his best chance.”
Both Kuegel and Taylor said grand jury proceedings are private, meaning no one is allowed in the courtroom except for the jurors and the prosecutors. Even if Turley were to have been given the chance to explain himself to the jurors, which he wasn’t, he would’ve been forced to do so without an attorney present. Prosecutors are able to choose any witness to stand in front of a grand jury.
“He would’ve been legally naked, so to speak, and under oath,” Taylor said of his client. “That’s a vulnerable position for him to take, but that shows how strongly he felt about his position in this case.”
Taylor said one of the biggest questions is in regard to who shot first. However, there won’t be any forensics that answer that question, according to Taylor.
“This is a swearing contest between two people–one wears a badge, and the other doesn’t,” Taylor said. “Mr. Turley didn’t know there was an officer there and certainly didn’t mean to hurt an officer.”
Another question Taylor feels should be answered is, “Why was Mr. Turley the only one prosecuted?”
“I don’t know if the officer was presented to the grand jury or not,” Taylor said. “I may never know.”
Taylor added that because Turley is being indicted with first-degree assault, he could receive ten years in prison if found guilty of the crime.
“Because it’s a firearm that was used, Mr. Turley would have to serve 85 percent of the 10 years,” Taylor said. “The power of the government brought all its resources against a 63-year-old Vietnam veteran who was in his backyard at the wrong time.”
Since it will be difficult to determine who shot first, Taylor said he’s interested to see where the bullet fired by Officer Morris went. Taylor said that since, according to his client, Morris was standing on the opposite side of the fence and out of Turley’s yard, Turley shot him through the 6-foot privacy fence. Taylor said that answer to who shot whom may come down to whether Morris shot over the fence or from a different location.
*** Editor’s note: This story has been revised since its original posting. When this story was first published, Evan Taylor was not available for comment. The current story includes the addition of Mr. Taylor’s interview once that was made available.