Officials say a Hyrum man who was shot and killed in his home last month was shot in self defense.
Robert Van Hemert, 37, was shot and killed by his brother-in-law, 40-year-old Aaron Smith of Utah County, on Oct. 14 after an argument between them.
The Cache County Attorney’s office released a statement Wednesday evening saying the Oct. 14 shooting was justified under state law when a person “reasonably believes force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury to the person or a third person as a result of another person’s imminent use of unlawful force, or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.”
“The investigation reveals that Smith used deadly force because he reasonably believed that such force was necessary to prevent Van Hemert from killing or seriously injuring him and perhaps others,” Cache County Attorney James Swink said in a press release. “Conversely, the investigation also reveals that Van Hemert unlawfully used deadly force under circumstances not warranting the use of such force.”
In the course of the investigation, authorities learned Van Hemert and his wife rented a home located at 84 N. 600 East. The couple had been having marital problems, and there were frequent arguments in the home. Text messages reveal that Van Hemert was emotionally abusive to his wife, the report said.
On the day of the shooting, Van Hemert was at home with a neighbor. The neighbor told investigators he was aware that Van Hemert and Van Hemert’s wife had been recently arguing over family finances.
Van Hemert’s wife and her brother, Aaron Smith, had returned to the Hyrum home after visiting their father in Salt Lake City. Their father was concerned about the safety of his daughter given her marital problems and her potential for repeating a suicide attempt. They had decided Smith would accompany his sister to her home and retrieve a handgun that was located there, the report indicates.
Soon after Smith entered the Hyrum home with his sister, Van Hemert began to criticize and belittle the woman for taking a title loan out on their vehicle to pay the rent. Van Hemert was reportedly unemployed at the time.
During the course of the argument, the investigation showed that Van Hemert became upset and told Smith to leave the home, but Smith refused because he had been invited into the home as a guest of his sister.
Van Hemert left the room in anger and entered into an adjacent bedroom. While Van Hemert was in the bedroom, both the neighbor and Van Hemert’s wife heard the distinct sound of a magazine being loaded into a firearm.
Within seconds, Van Hemert re-entered the family room in an aggressive manner with a handgun in his right hand. Smith, believing his life was in imminent danger, drew his own firearm, which he had been carrying concealed, and fired five shots at Van Hemert in rapid succession.
Three of these shots struck Van Hemert. One shot entered Van Hemert’s left lower jaw, one entered the left side of his head, and one entered his right chest.
He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Swink’s report indicates Smith holds a valid concealed firearm permit issued by the State of Utah.
Immediately after the shooting, Smith called 911 and informed dispatch that Van Hemert had pulled a gun on him and that he acted in self-defense in shooting Van Hemert.
Within minutes, law enforcement officers arrived on scene and took Smith into custody for questioning. Smith immediately complied with all orders given to him by law enforcement, Swink said in his report.
Officers entered the home and observed that Van Hemert’s body had not been moved and that a handgun was located in his lap near his right hand. The handgun was loaded with a magazine that had seven live cartridges in it. The chamber was empty.
Van Hemert, a convicted felon, was prohibited from possessing a firearm.
Swink said these findings are the result of a month-long investigation by the Cache County Sheriff’s Office, Weber Crime Scene Investigators (Weber CSI), and the State Medical Examiner’s Office.