Submitted: February 21, 2018
Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware File No.
VALIHURA, VAUGHN, and SEITZ, Justices.
Collins J. Seitz, Jr. Justice.
7th day of March, 2018, having considered the
briefs and the record below, it appears to the Court that:
Trevor Belmont appeals from a Family Court adjudication of
delinquency for aggravated menacing. He claims there was
insufficient evidence introduced at trial that he intended to
place another person in fear of imminent physical injury,
which was necessary to sustain his conviction. After a
careful review of the record, we find that the Family Court
judge, who acted as the trier of fact, had sufficient
evidence in the record to find beyond a reasonable doubt that
Belmont intended to cause fear in the police officer when
Belmont raised a gun in his direction. Thus, we affirm the
Family Court's decision.
April 21, 2016, the Wilmington Police Department alerted its
officers to the report of a young man with a gun near the
Delaware Technical Community College campus. Officers Hector
Tabron and Darriel Tynes responded and found Belmont, a
seventeen-year-old who matched the suspect's description,
holding his waistband and running toward them. Tabron told
Belmont to stop, but Belmont turned and ran down the sidewalk
of an adjoining street. The officers pursued Belmont on foot.
Tabron followed directly behind Belmont on the sidewalk,
while Tynes ran parallel down the street. Tynes heard Belmont
fall as Belmont tried to jump from the sidewalk to the street
over the edge of a car. Tynes testified that he saw Belmont
stand up, reach for his waistband, pull out a gun, and begin
to raise it toward Tynes. Belmont, however, testified that he
did not see the officer behind him and pulled out the gun to
toss it into a pile of leaves without ever raising it toward
the officers. Witnesses heard an officer command Belmont to
"drop the gun, " or "drop the weapon,
" roughly one-to-two seconds before Tynes
fired a single shot that hit Belmont in the
knee. Tabron testified that he never saw the
gun, and Belmont did not have the gun when the officers
arrested him. The police later found a BB gun in the pile of
leaves, which Belmont admitted was his.
February 17, 2017, the State charged Belmont in Family Court
with aggravated menacing and resisting arrest. At the bench
trial, Tynes testified that Belmont "yanked [the gun]
from his waistband and he was making forward movement . . .
like he was going to pull it out in my direction, "
that Belmont was "making movements towards me like he
was raising it toward me." Tynes also testified, "I
felt my life was in danger, " and that he did not know
if Belmont was going to point the gun at him or
Tabron. Belmont admitted to carrying the BB gun in
his pocket, but denied pointing the gun at an officer or
trying to scare anyone. Belmont also claimed that while
Tabron shouted for him to stop, Tynes did not say anything
before he fired.
When the State rested its case, Belmont moved for judgment of
acquittal because there was insufficient evidence of anyone
being placed in fear. The court denied the motion and found
Belmont delinquent on both charges. On June 19, 2017, the court
sentenced Belmont to Level V secure care commitment to Youth
Rehabilitative Services for an indefinite commitment plus
fines. The court then suspended both the sentence and fines.
Belmont appeals a single issue-whether there was sufficient
evidence to support the court's adjudication of
delinquency of aggravated menacing because the State failed
to present adequate evidence that Belmont acted with the
intent to cause fear. This Court reviews sufficiency of
evidence claims de novo, to determine "whether
the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the
State, was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to have
found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable
doubt." To establish aggravated menacing, the
State must show that the defendant (1) displayed what
appeared to be a deadly weapon (2) and intentionally placed
another person in fear of imminent physical
injury. Belmont claims that the State failed to
present sufficient evidence that Belmont intended to place
the officers in fear of imminent physical injury.
appellant must fairly present to the trial court each issue
on appeal.If an issue is not fairly presented to
the trial court, we review for plain error. To challenge
the sufficiency of evidence on appeal, "an appellant is
required to have fairly presented such a claim by a motion
for judgment of acquittal to the trial
court." The State argues that Belmont only
argued in the Family Court that there was insufficient
evidence to establish fear by the officers, not Belmont's
intent to cause fear. When Belmont moved for judgment of
acquittal, he argued that "Tynes did not testify that a
weapon was pointed at him. . . . He didn't say that he
was in fear of physical imminent injury. He did say he was .
. . in fear that his partner was . . . in danger of imminent
physical injury." In denying the motion, the court
addressed only the sufficiency of the evidence to establish
fear, stating that "[Tynes] felt his life was in danger.
And I think that's a prima facie case for the charge. So,
your motion is denied." Neither Belmont nor the court
addressed whether the evidence was sufficient for intent.
Because Belmont did not preserve the issue, we review for
plain error. "Under the plain error standard of review,
the error complained of must be so clearly prejudicial to
substantial rights as to jeopardize the fairness and
integrity of the trial process."
person acts with intent when "it is the person's
conscious object to engage in conduct of that nature or cause
that result." And "[a] person is presumed to
intend the natural and probable consequences of the
person's act." In a similar case, Thomas v.
State, a police officer stopped the defendant for a
traffic violation and saw the defendant pull out a
gun. The defendant did not point the gun at
the officer, but pointed it toward the window the officer was
approaching. The officer "never testified that he was in
fear of imminent physical injury, " but testified that
the defendant's actions led him to believe that the
defendant "was going to fire the gun when [the officer]
got to the window." This Court found the evidence was
sufficient to establish intent because "Delaware law
requires only that the defendant display a weapon and
intentionally cause fear of imminent physical injury,
not that the defendant must point the weapon
directly at the victim in a face-to-face
Similarly, regardless of whether Belmont raised the gun or
pointed it toward the officers, like the officer in
Thomas, Tynes testified that he believed Belmont was
going to fire the weapon at him or Tabron. In addition, Tynes
testified that he feared his life was in danger. The parties
do not contest that Belmont intentionally pulled out the gun
while being chased. And it is a natural and probable result
that a police officer, while pursuing a suspect, would fear
being shot when that suspect pulls out a gun. Because it was
Belmont's "conscious object" to pull out the
gun, and causing fear is the natural and probable consequence
of that act, there was ...