Family wants charges filed in assault on alleged burglar

Scottie Smith
Scottie Smith continues to impress doctors with his recovery following an assault last month. / Photo courtesy Sierra Smith

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – A Colorado Springs family is outraged that no charges have been filed against the man who put their loved one in a coma after an assault last month.

It happened January 22 on Ruskin Place, near South Academy Boulevard and Airport Road.

Twenty-five year old Scottie Smith was assaulted by 30-year-old Craig Uehling – an Army veteran – after Uehling reportedly saw Smith breaking into cars in the neighborhood.

When police arrived, Smith was unconscious and medics later reported that he had no pulse for several minutes.

Smith’s family says there’s no proof that Smith was doing anything wrong and that Uehling went too far when he decided to take the law into his own hands.

“Scottie can’t even talk to tell his side of what happened,” said Kristie Smith, his aunt.

There’s still a lot of questions about what exactly happened that evening but Scottie’s family says they know some things for certain.

“This was absolutely uncalled for,” said Kristie.

Scottie has been in the hospital since that night, fighting to make a return from the dead. His family said doctors have confirmed Scottie was placed in a “military style choke-hold.”

“Uehling already admitted that he choked, got him in a choke-hold, so we know that Uehling killed him on the street because the EMT and the fire department show up and he’s unresponsive, in cardiac arrest, that means he’s dead in the street. His heart wasn’t beating anymore,” said Kristie.

According to the police report, Uehling saw Scottie breaking into cars in the neighborhood and confronted him.

But Scottie’s family said they don’t believe that’s what really happened.

“He didn’t live far from there at the time, just across the street, so he could have been walking back home,” said Kristie. “Uehling has absolutely no proof that Scottie broke into those cars.”

Even if it was the case?

“So what? That don’t deserve the death penalty,” said Scott Smith, Scottie’s father. “That’s what the police are made for, that’s what judges are made for.”

Scottie’s family believes Scottie was trying to run away and he became the victim when Uehling decided to chase him down.

“I need to have some justice for my nephew who has been lying in this hospital since Uehling decided to kill him on the streets of Colorado Springs,” said Kristie.

Attorney John Donohoe told FOX21 News it is possible for an aggressor and a victim to trade places over the course of an incident.

“There are situations where the person that is the initial aggressor can withdraw and if they make that clear that they are withdrawing and then the second party attacks them that second party could be charged arguably with assault, so that does happen in certain situations,” he said.

Donohoe said Colorado law does give people the right to protect themselves and their property, but there is a limit.

“It gets a little complicated sometimes in these cases, but essentially if you’re protecting property you can not use deadly force,” Donohoe said. “If you’re defending yourself or another person you can use deadly force, if you think it’s reasonable and the person is going to inflict great bodily injury on you or something that would cause death.”

He said there’s also laws in Colorado that allow a person to make an arrest if they witness a crime, but deadly force can’t be used in that situation either.

“What the statue says there is that you can, if you’ve seen the crime committed or believe it’s been committed, you as a private citizen can use reasonable force to affect the arrest but you can’t use deadly force unless you’re defending yourself or another person,” he said.

Donohoe said in these situations it’s best to just call the police and keep your distance.

In this case Donohoe believes the key will be determining what “reasonable force” means and that’s where it can get tricky.

“Did the individual that put the person in the choke hold, did he feel threatened? Did he believe that his life was at risk, that he was going to create death or great bodily injury? How far was the alleged perpetrator away from the car that he was allegedly breaking into? Was he standing right there or was he blocks or yards or houses away? There’s just so much stuff that goes into an analysis of a case like that,” he said.

But for Scottie’s family, there’s no doubt about it.

“If Scottie was in the wrong, if perchance he was breaking into a car, why didn’t he get his day in court?” asked Kristie. “Why didn’t he get arrested? Why doesn’t we see what the judge says, or a jury of 12 of our peers? Why is it that we’re in the hospital for three weeks and he’s fighting for his life?”

“The man committed murder on the streets of Colorado Springs and he’s getting away with it,” said Kristie.

Scottie’s family said they are not done fighting for justice but for now they are focusing on Scottie’s recovery.

“The good news is that my brother is improving and continuing to get stronger every day,” said Sierra Smith, Scottie’s sister.

“I thought I lost my son, to have him come back makes me feel like the luckiest dad in the entire world, I’ll tell you that,” said Scott.

Scottie continues to impress doctors with his recovery but he still is unable to talk, though his family tells FOX21 he just started to be able to say a few words again and “I love you.”

“We are hoping for the best and his family and his five and six year old sons are going to be with him every step of the way through his recovery,” said Sierra.

A GoFund Me account has been set up by Scottie’s family to help pay for his ongoing care.

FOX21 tried reaching out to Uehling for comment but he did not return our calls.

The Colorado Springs Police Department and the District Attorney declined to comment and said they are still investigating the incident and have not yet decided if charges will be filed.

Stick with FOX21 News for the latest on this story as it develops.

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