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Flores v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

October 10, 2017

MICHAEL JOSEPH FLORES, Appellant (Defendant),
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

         Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Catherine R. Rogers, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the State Public Defender: Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Chief Appellate Counsel; P. Craig Silva, Appointed Assistant Public Defender

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; David L. Delicath, Deputy Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Michael R. Armstrong, Assistant Attorney General

          Before BURKE, C.J., and HILL, DAVIS, FOX, and KAUTZ, JJ.

          DAVIS, JUSTICE

         [¶1] Michael Flores appeals from his conviction for interfering with a peace officer under Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 6-5-204(b) (LexisNexis 2017), [1] which provides that "[a] person who intentionally and knowingly causes or attempts to cause bodily injury to a peace officer engaged in the lawful performance of his duties is guilty of a felony[.]" He asks only whether the evidence was sufficient to sustain that conviction. We affirm.


         [¶2] Shortly after 5:00 p.m. on April 8, 2015, one of Flores' neighbors in a 4-unit apartment building heard loud yelling punctuated by Flores screaming that he was going to kill some unidentified person. Concerned that someone might be in danger, the neighbor reported the disturbance to the Cheyenne police. Officers Allen and Zabriskie arrived shortly thereafter.

         [¶3] The officers knocked and announced their presence, but no one responded at either the main entrance to the apartment or the sliding glass door at its rear. Zabriskie stayed at that door while Allen and the newly arrived Sgt. Wrede returned to the front door to once again seek a response from inside the apartment. When that effort proved unavailing, employees of the company that managed the building brought the officers a key to Flores' apartment. That key, however, did not work, so one of the management company's employees kicked open the main entrance and opened the sliding glass door for Officer Zabriskie.

         [¶4] As Officer Allen moved into a hallway inside the apartment, he saw Flores standing in a doorway at the other end. In the room behind Flores, Allen saw a man who was not moving on a bed. He ordered Flores to move so that he could check on the reclining man's condition, but Flores refused and braced himself in the doorway to block the officer's passage. In response, Allen put him on the floor, and when Flores rolled to his stomach and stuck his hands underneath, Wrede and Zabriskie assisted in pulling his arms out so he could be handcuffed and his waistband could be checked for weapons. Allen then woke the man on the bed and found that although he was uninjured, he was very intoxicated.

         [¶5] Officers Allen and Zabriskie then escorted Flores down a set of exterior stairs attached to the deck at the rear entrance to the apartment, and to Allen's patrol vehicle approximately half a block away. From the stairs to the vehicle, Flores continually attempted to pull away from one officer and then the other, and told Zabriskie he would "kick their butts." He continued pushing and pulling at the vehicle while Allen was attempting to search him for weapons and contraband, so Zabriskie pressed him face first into the side of the vehicle to control him. When Allen completed his search, Zabriskie turned him around, and Flores bent at the waist to push himself away from the patrol car and into Zabriskie.

         [¶6] While he was bent over, Allen opened the rear door of the vehicle, and Zabriskie took advantage of that position by pushing Flores backward into the rear seat, where he rocked onto his back with his feet sticking outside the door frame. As Zabriskie leaned inside to swing his legs away from the upper rear of the door opening, Flores pulled both of his knees to his chest and-intentionally, in the officer's mind-kicked him primarily with his right foot, with enough force to push him out of the vehicle.[2] The kick struck Zabriskie in the region of his solar plexus, which was covered by a portion of a rigid plate inside the officer's protective vest, but it temporarily knocked the wind out of him. The area remained tender for a few days after the incident, and it hurt whenever his movements brought it into contact with the body armor he wore on the job.

         [¶7] Flores was later charged and convicted of a breach of the peace for loudly disturbing his neighbors, a misdemeanor interference count in relation to his actions toward Officer Allen inside his apartment, and a felony interference count for kicking ...

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