A man who escorted his sister to her home in Hyrum, Utah on October 14 after a domestic violence incident was ruled justified in shooting his brother-in-law at the residence, thanks in part to having a valid concealed carry permit.
Cache County Attorney James M. Swink announced Thursday that his office has ruled the shooting was justified and that criminal charges would not be filed against Aaron Smith of Provo.
Smith had shot his sister’s husband, Robert Van Hemert, in their Hyrum home after an argument. The month-long investigation found that Smith acted within Utah’s self-defense laws.
According to the ruling, on Oct. 14, Smith was escorting his sister home due to recent domestic abuse by Van Hemert. He also intended to remove a gun from the home.
Smith was invited into the home by his sister and was lawfully allowed to be there. As soon as they entered the home an argument broke out between the couple about rent for the home. Van Hemert was angry at his wife for taking a title loan on their car for the rent, according to the report.
Smith defended his sister by pointing out that Van Hermert was unemployed and had no income to contribute. Van Hermert demanded that Smith leave, but he refused.
Van Hermert entered a bedroom and returned with a loaded handgun. Smith, believing that his and his sister’s lives were in danger, drew his own handgun and fired five shots at Van Hermert. Hemert, hit in the head, neck and chest, died at the scene.
There were several things that helped make this case easier for authorities to determine that this was a case of legitimate self-defense, and not a revenge shooting, beyond fairly ambiguous ballistics and survivor testimony of dubious veracity.
The first was that a neighbor was an eyewitness to the altercation, and provided corroborating testimony. The second is that Van Hemert was a convicted felon in possession of a gun.
That is part of the story that I find very troubling. Part of the reason Smith escorted his sister home was because they knew that there was a gun at a residence, and Mr. Smith went there with the intention of removing the firearm from the home.
Why didn’t either Smith or his sister have law enforcement come to the home with them to take possession of the firearm when they knew Van Hemert was potentially dangerous?
While Aaron Smith may have been justified in shooting Robert Van Hemert in the end, if he and his sister were aware that Van Hemert was a felon in possession of a gun, then they should have informed the local authorities and had them deal with him.
Van Hemert is clearly ultimately responsible for the actions that led to Smith firing in self-defense, but he and his sister exercised incredibly poor judgement in entering a home where a felon known to them to have committed domestic violence was known to have access to firearm.