Archive for Saturday, October 27, 2001

Charges filed in Baldwin shooting

October 27, 2001

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A Baldwin man was charged Friday afternoon with shooting a neighbor and threatening to shoot two other neighbors.

Stephen Meeker, 34, turned himself in at the Douglas County Jail on one charge each of aggravated battery, aggravated assault and attempted aggravated battery.

Meeker was charged in an incident that occurred the night of Oct. 14 in the 1200 block of Bison Court in what Baldwin Police called a neighborhood dispute.

Meeker's bond was set at $50,000 upon being booked into jail, but during his first court appearance later Friday afternoon, Douglas County Judge Pro Tem Peggy Kittel reduced the bond to $15,000 because Meeker had no previous criminal record.

It was also the second time Meeker had been arrested for the shooting. Police took him to jail shortly after the incident, but he was released less than 24 hours later because the Douglas County District Attorney's Office said it didn't have enough information to file charges.

Douglas County Sheriff's officers continued investigating the incident. The delay in filing charges upset some Baldwin residents as well as some city officials such as Mayor Ken Hayes, who criticized the district attorney for taking so long to file charges.

Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney said she had an obligation to review all the evidence before filing charges. She also said filing a lesser charge against any criminal suspect while an investigation is ongoing could allow that suspect to plead guilty, thus ending the case.

"I'm very pleased to see that the justice system is functioning," Hayes said Friday, after learning of the charges. "The situation in the neighborhood has been tense."

But Jim Rumsey, an attorney hired by Meeker after the first arrest, told Kittel that Meeker was frightened by the actions of some neighbors. A woman had charged into Meeker's house threatening his wife, Rumsey said.

Meeker ordered the woman out of the house at gunpoint "because he knew she wouldn't go otherwise," Rumsey said.

Then Meeker, while standing at the front door, allegedly was charged by two other men, leading to the shooting, Rumsey said.

Rumsey said he has interviewed several neighbors who say that Meeker is not a violent person and not at fault for the shooting. Rumsey also criticized Baldwin city officials for their comments in the Journal-World and the Baldwin City Signal.

"None of the city officials have interviewed anyone in the neighborhood," Rumsey said.

The victim, a 31-year-old man identified as a neighbor to Meeker, was taken after the shooting to Kansas University Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan., and released two days later. Police said he had been shot three times.

Rumsey also told Kittel that Meeker had been fired from his job and had no money to continue paying for an attorney.

Assistant Dist. Atty. Brad Burke argued against a bond reduction, saying that releasing Meeker would cause continued neighborhood tension.

Kittel set a second court date for 2 p.m. Monday before Judge Jack Murphy. Kittel said the issue of hiring or appointing an attorney will be handled then, as will the setting of a preliminary hearing date.

Despite the bond reduction, Meeker remained in jail Friday evening.

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