Deputy Jared Mullis pleads not guilty to involuntary manslaughter of Sgt. Rod Lucas

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The Fresno County sheriff's office had a difficult day Thursday as a deputy answered to charges of involuntary manslaughter where the victim was a sheriff's sergeant. (KFSN)

The Fresno County sheriff's office had a difficult day Thursday as a deputy answered to charges of involuntary manslaughter where the victim was a sheriff's sergeant.

"When you get the profession involved and you see the turnout we had today from all the professionals, that makes it a little more emotionally trying," said defense attorney Roger Wilson, who represents Deputy Jared Mullis.

Sheriff Margaret Mims called it an accidental shooting when Mullis's gun went off and killed Sgt. Rod Lucas.

Lucas left an indelible mark over his 46 years. The sheriff's sergeant in a special investigations unit is also remembered as a husband, a father of four, a mentor, a coach, and a school board member.

"He was loved by everybody in the department," Wilson said of Lucas. "Same with Deputy Mullis, people love him too."

Friends also remember Lucas as a Christian. He helped lead his own father in that direction and the religion shaped Bubba Lucas' approach to his son's death and to Mullis, the man who could be held responsible.

"The family has no vengeance in our heart whatsoever because that's not going to bring our loved one back," said John "Bubba Lucas. "Rod is not going to return. But we do want justice for Rod. That's all we're asking for."

For this father, justice would not take the shape of prison time for Mullis, the co-worker now charged with involuntary manslaughter for the October shooting in a sheriff's office.

Mullis' attorney says the criminal case, filed more than eight months later, came as a complete surprise.

"Based on what I know about the case, this was an accident and when there's an accident, generally you don't have a crime involved," Wilson said. "It's just an accident."

But legal analyst Tony Capozzi says involuntary manslaughter can apply to accidental deaths in certain circumstances.

"What the prosecution is going to have to show here is this is something, if the defendant had acted properly and not carelessly and not with any kind of negligence, this act should have never happened," he said.

Capozzi said a trial could be tricky for both sides, so the district attorney and the defense could reach a plea deal on a misdemeanor charge like negligent handling of a firearm.

That could amount to justice for the Lucas family with a conviction, but no prison time for Mullis. He might even be able to keep his job.

For a lot of deputies who knew them both and came to court to support Mullis, that might be the best ending to a bad situation.

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