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Man sentenced to prison for pulling gun at Utah police station

Published December 16, 2013 12:19 pm

Courts • Perpetrator, sentenced to up to 10 years, wanted police to kill him.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

West Jordan • On the day James Ramsey Kammeyer decided to kill himself, he walked into a police station with a gun.

It was unloaded, tucked into his pants. But in the lobby of the West Valley City police station, Kammeyer wanted to convince officers otherwise.

He took out the weapon, brandished and pointed the handgun at a woman's head in an attempt to provoke police officers to shoot him.

But rather than ending his life, that act earned Kammeyer a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

"There are times when the terrors of life outweigh the terrors of death, and, I think, most of us are sympathetic to that," 3rd District Judge Bruce Lubeck said Monday before sentencing the man. "But when you involve other people, you've crossed the line."

Kammeyer, 40, pleaded guilty in October to threat of terrorism, aggravated assault and possession of a firearm by a restricted person — each a third-degree felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dropped two additional felony charges.

On Monday, the judge ordered the aggravated assault charge to run consecutive to the other two charges, which would run concurrently.

Defense attorney Rhome Zabriskie had argued for jail and probation, rather than prison, noting that Kammeyer has struggled with depression for years. At the time of the incident at West Valley City Police headquarters, he said, Kammeyer had been reacting poorly to psychiatric medication.

Zabriskie also stressed there were no bullets in the gun Kammeyer brought to the police station.

"He went there with the purpose of committing suicide," Zabriskie said. "He offers his heartfelt and deep apologies to those officers who were involved that day."

Prosecutors said Kammeyer nonetheless endangered others by walking into the police station and posing as a threat.

A clerk, who wrote a letter to the judge detailing the emotional trauma she suffered as a result of being held at gunpoint, could have gotten caught in the crossfire as officers responded to the scene, prosecutor Matthew Hansen said.

"This wasn't something Mr. Kammeyer was pushed into, or something the medicine made him do, this was a choice," Hansen said. "Mr. Kammeyer walked into a police lobby with a gun and pointed that gun at people's heads.

On April 29, Kammeyer walked into the police station at 3575 S. Market Street (2790 West) and approached he receptionist's window, asking to speak with a detective. He was directed to an officer at another window, where he asked to speak with a detective in private, but then agreed to meet with an officer in the lobby instead, according to court documents.

This came after careful consideration of his surroundings, the defense attorney said Monday.

Kammeyer looked around: the lobby was empty. Good, he thought. He didn't want anyone to be hurt, he said Monday.

As the detective approached, he noticed that Kammeyer was fidgeting with something in his pocket, according to charging documents. When he asked Kammeyer to remove his hands from his pockets, charges state, Kammeyer pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the detective, then the receptionist.

A second officer ran downstairs to help, but when he arrived at the door to the lobby, Kammeyer allegedly pointed the gun to the officer's head.

That's when the officer opened fire.

Kammeyer was struck by bullets twice in the arm. He was taken to a local hospital and treated for his injuries.

"I am very thankful that no one else was harmed and I was only harmed very minimally," the defendant said, voice quavering. "I can't even express my regret and remorse I have for my actions that day."

Kammeyer thanked the officers involved for doing their jobs and "protecting the community."

He said what he hadn't considered in planning his own death was the lasting psychological and emotional effects of his actionson others at the scene.

"I did wrong," Kammeyer told the judge. "I wasn't thinking about the emotional damage that I could cause."

Kammeyer's wife of eight years, Rebecca Kammeyer, wept openly in the back of the courtroom Monday as her husband was sentenced.

Her children miss their father, she said. They hoped he would be given probation, ordered to undergo mental health treatment, and be allowed to come home for Christmas.

"All he wanted to do was die," she said outside the courtroom. "Now he's going to spend 10 years in prison."

She told police at the time of her husband's arrest that he had been increasingly unstable and had twice before made unsuccessful attempts to kill himself.

Kammeyer, who works for the state's Department of Technology Services, was charged earlier this year in West Jordan Justice Court with criminal mischief and two counts of commission of domestic violence in the presence of a child, stemming from an alleged domestic dispute the night before the shooting.

Rebecca Kammeyer explained after Monday's hearing that she had called the police that night, "begging them to do something" for her husband, who she was afraid might "kill himself in front of our kids."

She knew he had a gun and she was afraid of how he might use it, she said.

"He felt like he had nothing," she said. "And since he's been in jail, he hasn't really gotten any help. He'd be better off not in the prison system."

Kammeyer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct involving violence and was sentenced in June to spend 30 days in jail.

Since Kammeyer is a convicted felon — he pleaded guilty in 1999 to child sex abuse — he is not allowed to have a gun.

mlang@sltrib.com

Twitter: @Marissa_Jae