PAW PAW, Mich. (WOOD) — Jurors have found a former Mattawan police officer who opened fire on a fleeing stolen car not guilty of misdemeanor reckless use of a firearm.
Chelsey Omilian burst into tears as the verdict was read in a Paw Paw courtroom Friday afternoon. The jury had deliberated less than two hours.
“I’m thankful for a complete and thorough investigation and I’m thankful they came to the right verdict and realized that I was only trying to protect myself and the public that day,” Omilian told 24 Hour News 8 after the verdict was handed down.
She said she felt vindicated.
“I do, completely,” she said. “And I just want to continue to help people still. I’ve got to figure out how to do that, but I’m going to continue to help people.
The prosecution had argued she was reckless when she opened fire on a stolen car in November 2017, shooting the back of it five times. But the defense argued Omilian was faced with a split-second decision and was justified in defending herself and others.
As testimony wrapped up Friday, Omilian’s lawyers called two witnesses, including a parole officer who testified the driver of the vehicle was wanted for a parole violation. Omilian did not testify.
The crux of the case was whether the stolen car was endangering Omilian’s life. One witness said it appeared the car was driving around her, and another testified Omilian had to jump out of the way.
Jurors saw police dashcam video of the shooting Thursday. They asked to see it again while deliberating.
“I don’t think that the prosecution actually proved the case as well as what he thought he did,” jury foreman Alan Roggow told 24 Hour News 8 after court.
He said the jury of six had one holdout for guilty but that that juror ultimately agreed Omilian was not guilty.
“We don’t feel that she was willingly trying to hurt anybody and that … she was using the right amount of force to stop the vehicle,” he said.
Before deliberations, Omilian’s defense attorney asked the judge for a directed verdict of not guilty, which would have taken the decision out of the jury’s hands. The judge turned down the request, but said the decision was “very close.”
Omilian said she wants to attend law school and become a criminal defense attorney.
“Never stop protecting anyone. Stand by what you believe in and stand by your own actions,” she said.