FARMINGTON — A woman who was shot in the stomach by a deputy last year was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault and faces up to three years in prison at her sentencing hearing next week.

Donna Peace, 56, was convicted of the two fourth-degree aggravated assault felonies last week. She had been charged with two third-degree felonies for aggravated assault on a peace officer, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O'Brien said.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputies were called to Peace's home on County Road 3050 on January 31, 2012.

Peace was drinking alcohol and called her sister and said she was holding a gun to her head. Peace's sister, Gloria Chavez, called 911 and said Peace was suicidal. Peace's son and several of her grandchildren were in the home during the incident, according to court testimony.

"I called 911. I said she had a gun to her head. I thought the police were going to go out there and save her life," Chavez said in court. "I watch too much Cops.'"

In court, jurors listened to the recording of Chavez's 911 call. Chavez told police Peace also threatened to shoot her son and grandchildren if anyone tried to stop her.

Deputies arrived at the home at about 9 p.m. and started surrounding it.

Deputies Katie Macsalka and Emerson Charley walked to the back of the house and Peace appeared in a doorway.

"I came around the corner to see what was going on and I saw Miss Peace standing in the doorway with a handgun in one hand and a cell phone in the other," Macsalka said.


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Macsalka said Peace turned and stared at her from about four feet away.

"I heard her yell at me Get out of here I'm going to kill you,'" Macsalka said. "I had nowhere to go ... If she was going to shoot she was going to hit one of us."

Macsalka fired her weapon three times, hitting Peace in the stomach once.

By convicting Peace of aggravated assault, the jury didn't find there was enough evidence to prove Peace knew she pointed a gun at law enforcement.

"Nobody told Donna (Peace), Hey the police are here,'" Shelby Bradley, one of Peace's attorneys, said. "When these multiple officers approached this house they did so without lights flashing, they did so without the siren blaring and they did not announce their presence."

Emet Rudolfo, who also represented, argued that his client had a right to defend her property. He said the jurors incorrectly thought she was acting unlawfully just because she was drinking alcohol.

"On its face it's true. It's a correct statement of the law but it's an incomplete statement," Rudolfo said. "It's unlawful to carry a firearm while you are intoxicated but that doesn't trump your right to defend yourself and your property."

Assistant District Attorney Steven Johnston said Peace was carrying a weapon to shoot herself or others, not to legally defend her property.

"Her purpose in carrying this gun is to kill herself ... and others in the house so there wouldn't be as much pain," Johnston said. "That's not lawful possession of a firearm for purposes of protecting yourself and your property."

O'Brien said all of the facts combined to show Peace was acting criminally.

Before she heard what turned out to be deputies outside her home she had told her relatives on the phone she was going to kill herself and had threatened to harm other people, he said.

"You do that and then hear something and go outside with a firearm, you are following through on what you said you were going to do," he said. Peace "set a stage by saying anybody who is coming here is going to get hurt. That's not setting the stage for self defense."

The sheriff's office internally reviewed the shooting and Macsalka was cleared of any wrongdoing. She is now a detective.

The sheriff's office has not had an officer-involved shooting since the incident.

Peace remains free on bail pending her March 13 sentencing hearing in front of District Judge John Dean.

She faces up to 18 months in prison for each charge.

Rudolfo said the defense will argue her sentence for both charges should run concurrently with each other because it was a single act.

O'Brien said the district attorneys office has not decided what sentence it will seek. The office will meet with the sheriff's office prior to making a decision.

He also said the office will take into consideration that Peace suffers from a mental illness. She was on medication and was seeing a therapist at the time of the shooting, according to court documents.

"She has had no further incidents and she has quit drinking," Rudolfo said. "She is grateful to be alive and she is grateful that she was vindicated in the sense that she would never hurt a police officer."

Ryan Boetel may be reached at rboetel@daily-times.com; 564-4644. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel.