CLEARFIELD – Some of the charges against an off-duty police officer accused of shooting a man at a nightclub in DuBois last month were dismissed after a special preliminary hearing Thursday in Clearfield County Court.
Zachery Allen Dodson, 27, was charged with four counts of aggravated assault, two felony counts of terroristic threats, two misdemeanor counts of recklessly endangering another person, and three misdemeanor counts of simple assault in relation to an incident on Feb. 19 just before 1 a.m.
When this occurred, Dodson was a police officer with the Curwensville Borough police and he was also a deputy in the county sheriff’s office.
Testimony from the owner, Joseph Morrison of Invictus, the business where the shooting occurred revealed that Dodson was pushing then pounding on windows when he noticed him that night. Dodson was also yelling.
Morrison said he asked him to leave and escorted him out.
It was noted that Dodson was dropped off at the business and did not have a vehicle in the parking lot.
When Dodson’s attorney William A. Shaw Jr. asked if it was possible that Dodson thought those windows were actually a door, Morrison said that might be what he was trying to do, but at the time, he did not perceive it that way.
Another man, Ani Myrtaj got between them and told Morrison he was “handling it.”
Several minutes later Dodson came back inside while Morrison and Myrtaj were near the door.
Morrison testified that he said to Dodson that he was not coming back in, and told him to leave. At this point, Dodson started backing up and reached for a gun.
In the video surveillance footage shown at the hearing, when Dodson walks in, he is holding a cell phone to his ear with his right hand. He switches hands and pulls out the gun. Morrison said Dodson pointed it at him.
Morrison said Myrtaj saw the gun first and started waving his arms. After Myrtaj went toward Dodson, Morrison said he was able to grab Dodson’s right wrist and shoulder in an effort to get him down.
The gun went off as he was doing this, Morrison said.
He testified he wasn’t sure if the gun went off accidentally or not but at the time, he thought Dodson was attempting to shoot him.
Morrison pinned him down, took the gun and removed the magazine and a round from it. He then took Dodson outside where he kept him until police arrived.
While Morrison had him down, Dodson said “you’re [expletive]. I’m a cop.”
After officers arrived on the scene, Morrison went back inside and realized Myrtaj had been hit.
Cody Strouse, the paramedic who treated the victim, said he had a wound to his upper lip, lost some teeth and had another injury near his ear.
Cpl. Matthew Robertson of the DuBois City police testified that the victim’s jaw is now wired shut and he has bone fractures in his skull.
He said Dodson’s blood alcohol content was 0.17 percent when he was tested later.
In closing arguments, co-defense counsel, Stacy Parks Miller, stated that the video shows Dodson was not intending to harm anyone and that Morrison actually had control of Dodson’s arm when the gun went off.
“It is clear the gun went off during the struggle” and the only thing Dodson did on purpose was pull the gun out, she said.
She admitted Dodson’s behavior was reckless but stated it did not rise to the level of an aggravated assault, which requires intent to cause serious bodily injury.
District Attorney Ryan Sayers countered this by saying that Dodson’s intent is clear when he draws the weapon, which was to shoot Morrison.
Senior District Judge Carmine W. Prestia, specially presiding, took a few minutes to review the evidence before ruling to dismiss two of the counts of aggravated assault, one of the counts of terroristic threats and one count of recklessly endangering another person.
The other charges were held to court and now move on to the county court.
He set Dodson’s bail, which he had been denied earlier, at $50,000.