Fresno County sheriff’s Sgt. Rod Lucas could not have shot himself based on evidence presented this week by Fresno County coroner Dr. Michael Chambliss, prosecutor Noelle Pebet said Wednesday.
The muzzle of the gun that fired the single fatal bullet that hit Lucas on Oct. 31, 2016, was 32 inches away from him, Chambliss testified according to Pebet.
Fresno County sheriff’s Deputy Jared Mullis has been charged with involuntary manslaughter in Lucas’ death.
Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims at the time of the shooting called it a tragic accident.
Mullis has professed his innocence.
If convicted, the 34-year-old Mullis faces up to 14 years in prison.
Chambliss’ testimony came during a preliminary hearing to determine whether Mullis should stand trial. Superior Court Judge Jonathan Conklin will make that determination.
After hours of testimony Wednesday, the hearing adjourned for the day and will resume at 9 a.m. Thursday.
According to fellow officers who also were in the room at a sheriff’s office near the Fresno Yosemite International Airport, Mullis and Lucas, 46, were engaged in horseplay before Lucas was shot.
Detective Adam Maldonado testified Tuesday that Mullis told union president Eric Schmidt, “I did not shoot Rod.”
Mullis told Schmidt he had handed his gun to Lucas, and when Mullis turned around, the gun went off.
Wednesday, retired Sgt. John Tilley testified that he was in the building and walked by an office that contained Lucas and Mullis.
“I saw Rod and Jared talking,” he said. “They were having a good time.”
Under questioning from defense attorney Roger Wilson, Tilley said there was no animosity between them.
“Rod demonstrated a roundhouse kick in slow motion and asked what he would do to block it,” Tilley said.
When Lucas demonstrated the kick a second time, a gun fell out of Lucas’ waistband.
“He picked it up and put it back in his waistband,” Tilley said.
At that point, another person in the room said to Lucas, “I told you to get a holster,” Tilley said.
Mullis reached into his drawer and pulled out a plastic holster and told Lucas “this is what you need to get.”
At some point, Tilley said, Mullis “pivoted the holster and started to slide the gun into the holster.”
Tilley looked away to text his wife he’d be late getting home.
At the time, Lucas and Mullins were five to eight feet away from each other, he said.
Suddenly, “I heard a loud noise,” he said, but he did not see the gun go off.
He rushed down the hall to find a CHP officer who had an emergency medical kit, he said. Lucas, a 20-year veteran, died later at Community Regional Medical Center.
Michael Appel, a senior criminalist at the California Department of Justice crime lab, said he tested whether the gun could have gone off in the holster by placing it in a plastic holster and firing it. “The holster just blew apart,” he said.
Mullis is still an employee of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office and is currently on paid leave.