A jury has acquitted Henry Russell of the most serious charge he faced in the 2020 shooting of Matthew Burge near Paonia.

Roughly four hours after receiving the case, jurors returned with a not-guilty verdict on attempted first-degree murder. They convicted Russell of reckless endangerment, a class-3 misdemeanor.

His defense team of Patrick Crane and Darren Struble declined comment for the time being.

Russell did not dispute that he had shot Burge on Oct. 5, 2020, but testified that he thought Burge had a gun and was approaching his vehicle with his hand on the weapon’s frame. Russell rummaged around with his right hand to find his own gun and said he fired when Burge raised a weapon.

As such, he was acting in self-defense — protecting himself upon the reasonable belief that he faced imminent harm from the unlawful force of another — his attorneys said.

Crane and Struble also argued that Deputy District Attorneys Sergio Renteria and Joshua Dougherty had failed to show beyond reasonable doubt that Russell had deliberated, then formed an intent to attempt to kill Burge. The latter is necessary to prove attempted murder.

Prosecutors in closing statements pointed to the testimony of three witnesses who had been driving near Samuel Wade and Price roads, where the shooting took place. None of them saw a gun in Burge’s hands and Burge also testified that he did not have a gun. Investigators, including the public defenders’, did not find a gun, casings or bullets; however, the defense strongly questioned how thoroughly the area was searched immediately following the incident.

Testimony established that prior to the shooting, Russell drove past Burge as Burge walked toward his home. Burge made a “rude” pointing gesture, designed to demonstrate contempt and Russell drove by him, pulled into a store parking lot, waited 34 seconds and then drove back, encountering Burge again.

The prosecution argued during Russell had, during that time, deliberated and decided to go back and shoot Burge, but the jury by its verdict rejected the argument.

This story will be updated.

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