INDIANAPOLIS — A judge on Friday dismissed a life without parole enhancement against the man accused of killing Southport police Lt. Aaron Allan.
Marion Superior Court Judge Mark Stoner ruled prosecutors did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason Dane Brown knew Allan was a police officer when he allegedly fired the shots that killed Allan.
Brown, 32, now faces up to 65 years in prison on the murder charge.
“This isn’t justice, not in any form," James Allan, Aaron's father, said.
He said Aaron was trying to help a person.
“I’m glad it wasn’t somebody else that tried to help Jason Brown," James said. "Because then their family would be feeling the anguish, the turmoil and the total loss and devastation that I and my family are feeling."
Laurie Lowry, Aaron's mother, said she is in shock.
“He took something away from me that I can never get back,” Lowry said. “I hope his mom‘s happy. Because at least she gets to visit her son. I don’t.”
Lt. Allan, 38, joined the Southport Police Department in 2011 and is the first Southport officer to be killed in the line of duty. On his last morning alive, Allan walked his then-6-year-old son to school for his first day of kindergarten, his widow Stacy Allan testified this week.
Allan was among the first officers on the scene after Brown crashed and flipped a BMW in the 6600 block of South Madison Avenue about 2:40 p.m. on July 27, 2017. Brown, suspended by a seat belt in the upside down car, fired 18 shots, 11 of which hit Allan.
Witnesses testified that Allan was on his belly, crawling in the overturned car when the shots were fired. He was trying to help Brown, witnesses said. Allan, they said, never identified himself as a police officer.
Stoner said evidence in life without parole and death penalty cases must stand up to extreme scrutiny, a legal concept described in court as "super due process."
The state, Stoner said, failed to meet that very high burden.
"Court simply finds the evidence is very clear there was not an aggravating factor proven beyond a reasonable doubt," Stoner said.
Deputy Prosecutor Ross Anderson objected to Stoner's decision. Anderson and Prosecutor Ryan Mears declined to comment outside of court Friday. A spokesman for Mears said the office intends to comment after the case is concluded.
The ruling came as a further blow to prosecutors and Allan's family. In December, Allan's father James strongly disagreed with Mears' decision to drop the death penalty. Brown, in exchange, agreed to waive his right to a jury trial.
Brown's attorney Denise Turner said the judge made the correct decision.
"They have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jason knew it was a police officer acting in the line of duty," Turner said. "It wasn't enough that Lt. Allan was in his police uniform, it's not enough that he drove up in a police car. They have to prove that Jason knew."
Turner said this ruling was a partial victory for the defense, but stressed there are no real winners here.
"The case itself is not a case that is going to be won," Turner said. "Nobody is really going to win no matter what the outcome is."
Friday marked the fourth day of Brown's murder trial and included testimony from two witnesses.
Neurosurgeon Dr. Troy Payner testified Friday that he believed Brown knew what he was doing when he shot Allan. Toxicologist Sheila Arnold testified that a urine test taken on the day of the crash found marijuana, synthetic marijuana and cocaine in Brown's system.
The state rested its case Friday. The defense will call its first witness Monday morning.
With the possibility of life without parole off the table, Brown now faces a sentence of 45 to 65 years in prison if he's found guilty of Allan's murder.
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Contact WRTV reporter Vic Ryckaert at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @vicryc.
WRTV Digital Director Jen Brown and Senior Digital Content Producer Andrew Smith assisted with this report.