Judge rules man who fired eight shots into a car did not act in self-defense
SALT LAKE CITY — A Taylorsville man accused of firing eight gunshots and paralyzing a woman will have to stand trial after a judge ruled he won’t be able to claim he fired in self-defense.
Faalae So’o is charged with eight counts of felony discharge after he reportedly fired eight shots at a car in 2020, grazing the arm of one woman and hitting another in the back. His defense attorney, Christine Seaman, said a group of people rushed into an apartment complex in Kearns and started vandalizing a nearby car when he told his sisters to go inside. After that, So’o claimed he heard what he thought was gunfire as the vandals got into their cars and started to leave.
Seaman said, “He sees someone with what he believes to be a gun who then comes running at him, then jumps in the car and makes a threat about ‘we’ll be back.’”
Under new state law, a defendant claiming self-defense can request a “justification hearing,” and prosecutors have to prove with “clear and convincing evidence” that the potentially deadly force was not necessary. In this case, prosecutor Melanie Serassio claimed So’o was in no immediate danger since the cars were driving away when he fired.
“No one is driving towards him,” she said. “He has every opportunity to walk away from the situation, run away from the situation, do anything short of shooting at these people.”
Serassio said So’o paralyzed a woman simply because he was angry at the car being vandalized, adding that no gunfire was necessary.
“Eight shots were not justified. [The victim] said they were almost out of the complex when she finally got shot,” she said.
Judge William Kendall agreed with prosecutors, saying the evidence shows So’o was not in imminent danger as the vandals were leaving. He also refuted So’o’s claim that he fired “warning shots” at the departing cars.
Kendall said, “There is no justification to use a deadly weapon fired in proximity to other individuals as a warning. There’s simply no justification under Utah law for that.”
The next hearing was scheduled for early June.
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