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Man shot in the face found not guilty of aggravated assault

Posted at 4:32 AM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 07:32:46-04

PEORIA, AZ — A jury decided Thursday that a man who was shot in the face by Peoria police during a traffic stop is not guilty of aggravated assault.

Samuel Denk took the stand on Wednesday to convince the jury he never intended to place Sgt. Matthew Miller "in reasonable apprehension of imminent physical injury."

The trial stems from a traffic stop on March 27, 2019, where Sgt. Matthew Miller shot Denk in the face after Sgt. Miller claimed Denk reached for a gun.

Denk had a gun sitting in his lap when he was pulled over for taillights on his vehicle being out.

Sgt. Miller told Denk to place his hands on the steering wheel and when Denk moved, Miller fired his weapon.

Denk was arrested five days after the traffic stop for aggravated assault.

Experts who reviewed body camera footage from the incident were unsure if Denk actually reached for his gun or if he was following the officer's orders.

Body camera footage only shows one of Denk's hands close to the weapon. His left arm was propped up on the window.

"You don't see Sam moving towards a weapon," said Denk's attorney, Jocquese Blackwell. "What you see is Samuel Denk's hands move towards the steering wheel after he was commanded to do so."

One of his hands is not visible until the split second before he is shot.

"It looks like his hands are being raised to put them on the steering wheel as ordered. Not that he's reaching for his gun," said Jaren Keenan, a senior attorney with ACLU Arizona.