FULTON — A Callaway County jury has acquitted a fugitive apprehension agent in the fatal shooting of an unarmed parole jumper in Cape Girardeau.
Jurors reached the not-guilty verdict Tuesday in the involuntary manslaughter case against Steven R. Julian, 46, in the February death of Zachary Snyder. The trial took place in Callaway County on a change of venue.
Authorities say Julian went to an apartment complex to apprehend Snyder, who was wanted on a parole violation. He confronted Snyder, then shot him in the back after the suspect abruptly spun around. Julian testified that he could not see whether Snyder had a weapon in his left hand.
When the verdict was read, Julian's family members and co-workers breathed a sigh of relief with an audible gasp.
Across the aisle, Snyder's mother, Edith Snyder, sat in silence, a hand clasped to her mouth, eyes lowered, before hurrying out of the courtroom.
Julian declined comment to a reporter from the Southeast Missourian newspaper. His attorney, Steven Wilson, said his client wanted Snyder's family to know he is sorry for their loss.
Thirteen witnesses testified during the two-day trial, including Julian. It took jurors 44 minutes to reach a verdict.
Cape Girardeau County prosecutor Morley Swingle said it was a tough job for jurors to decide whether Julian acted in self-defense.
Earlier Tuesday, Julian testified it was dark when he showed up to arrest Snyder. Julian instructed Snyder to put his hands on a car. He said he didn't know if Snyder was armed.
When Snyder spun to the right, Julian reacted, pulling the trigger. The bullet struck Snyder in the back, just under the shoulder blade.
"This all happened that quick," Julian said, snapping his fingers.
Julian had worked as a prison investigator for the Missouri Department of Corrections before joining the fugitive apprehension team in 2006. Since the shooting, the fugitive apprehension unit has been transferred to the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Wilson said his understanding is that Julian may be given another job in the Department of Corrections.
"He's anxious to get back to work," Wilson said.