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17-year-old shot and killed man to defend aunt, Roy police say

SHARE 17-year-old shot and killed man to defend aunt, Roy police say

ROY — A 17-year-old girl fired two shots from a revolver to defend herself and her aunt from an attack by the woman's boyfriend, police said Friday.

The shots fatally struck the man in the chest in a domestic violence incident Thursday night that Roy Police Chief Greg Whinham said he could only describe as a "tragedy."

The 6:30 p.m. shooting marked a violent end to a daylong series of interactions between John F. Sharp, 37, and Mellony Pursel, 32, who had lived together in Roy but were separating, Whinham said. Pursel was struck in the arm and shoulder area by one of the rounds that left Sharp's body, but she is expected to recover.

Initial evidence indicates the shooting was in self-defense, occurring as Sharp was choking the older woman, Whinham said. The investigation is continuing, however, and the incident will be reviewed by the Weber County Attorney's Office.

"This is something we do far too often," Whinham said Friday, referring to police responses on domestic violence incidents. "The reality is that we did everything we could. His family did everything they could. ... The choices he made were his own."

The volatility of the situation first erupted at 4 a.m. Thursday when Sharp returned to the home at 1920 W. 4400 South, where the couple had separated a few days before. Sharp wanted to reconcile with Pursel, but she asked him to leave. Roy police responded in a keep-the-peace call to help the estranged boyfriend find another place to stay.

Less than six hours later, at 9:24 a.m., Sharp returned to the home and began destroying property, breaking electronics and dumping out drawers.

"There was no assault. There was significant damage of property," the chief said.

Once again, police were called to the home and Sharp attempted to flee, but he was captured after a foot chase.

At the time of the arrest, Sharp was "aggressive and violent," and became more agitated while at the Weber County Jail, Whinham said. He was booked at 11:05 a.m. for investigation of criminal mischief, interfering with arrest and evading officers.

That same day, according to court records, Pursel sought a protective order in 2nd District Court against Sharp.

The 17-year-old girl, who is Pursel's niece, has been living, along with her 7-month-old daughter, at the home. The girl's husband is out of state on military assignment.

Sharp was released at 5 p.m. Thursday after posting bond, agreeing to the provisions of a no-contact order and assurances that he had family and a place to go. From there, Whinham said Sharp was with family members in the Roy area, but became agitated with them and left.

"There were dynamics going on between three houses," the chief said.

Minutes later, by 6:30 p.m., Sharp forced his way into the house he had shared with Pursel and started choking her.

The teenage girl grabbed a .357 revolver and fired two shots, striking Sharp. Whinham said she fired the shots after she told Sharp to leave her aunt alone and he moved toward her. Her infant was in a baby carrier on a couch in the same room.

Whinham said the police department began getting calls in a very narrow time frame from Sharp's family about the fact that he had left them and was upset. He said those calls came about five minutes before the 911 call was placed from Pursel's home.

"His behavior was escalating."

Police arrived to find a wounded Pursel, the teenage girl and the infant outside the home. The trio were evacuated to a nearby convenience store for their safety while officers went inside.

Sharp was dead at the scene.

Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Mark Lowther said corrections officers issued the no-contact order to Sharp after he was able to post bail. With the exception of a few non-bailable offenses such as being a fugitive from justice, the jail has no authority to hold a person.

"If he can make bail, he can go," Lowther said.

Otherwise, had Sharp stayed in jail, he would have had a first appearance before a 2nd District Court judge who would have issued the same type of order or reiterated the provisions of the ex-parte order.

Lowther said anytime an offender is booked on a domestic violence-related crime, the alleged victim is notified if the person is released from the jail.

"I've looked at the documentation and from what I can see, she was contacted," Lowther said of Pursel. He also believed officers served Sharp with the more stringent ex-parte protective order, which would have been set for a hearing two weeks out.

Julee Smith, executive director of the YCC — which provides services to victims of domestic violence — called Thursday's string of events sad and tragic.

"It is one of those things you hate to see happen," she said. Even with protective orders in place and police warnings of not to return, she said that too often with offenders "there are no guarantees in these situations. They are so unpredictable."

Smith, a former reserve police officer and court employee, said Sharp's quick return to the Roy house after his release from the jail highlights the need for a mandatory "cooling off period," in which domestic violence offenders are ordered to be held for 48 hours.

"That would be ideal," she said, noting it would have to be a provision lawmakers signed off on. "I am sure she (Pursel) was hoping he got the message and he would stay away from there."

Instead, Smith said that even with "everybody obviously trying" to diffuse the situation, it ramped up to end in bloodshed.

Whinham said there was no indication in the man's history that spoke to violence, although he had been arrested previously for minor violations such as disorderly conduct.

"There was no indication at all he had been harmful to women," Whinham said, adding that he had been married before and in relationships.

He said Pursel, her niece and Sharp's family have all been forthcoming in the investigation, adding that the man's parents, siblings and officers had tried to calm him down through the course of the day.

"Anyway you look at it, it is a tragedy."

e-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com