By Kristen Tuntland
On February 12, 2019, James Curtis Sled pointed a shotgun at his wife’s face and yelled threats for no determinable reason, which led to his arrest. His preliminary hearing of one felony charge of threats to commit bodily harm or death was heard today. His wife, who is the complaining witness, and Officer Alec Miller, who responded to the 911 call, testified in court.
Mr. Sled and his wife have been married for 28 years and shared a residence in West Sacramento. However, they have been talking about a divorce since November of 2018 because Mr. Sled was unhappy about the amount of time she spends with her niece.
On the date of the incident, Mr. Sled woke up angry and started the day cursing, yelling, and calling his wife variations of “f***ing c**t” and“f***ing b***h.” He had drunk a beer, but was not intoxicated at the time.
She testified that once he became verbally abusive, he started acting irrational and erratic and retrieved one of his shotguns from their bedroom and opened the case in the living room. He then pointed the shotgun directly at her face about 12 inches away and said “I’m gonna kill you now and get it over with.” She did not know if the shotgun was loaded or not. She was in fear for her life for about two minutes while he held the shotgun to her face.
After she pushed the shotgun away from her face twice, he threatened to hit her with the stock of the shotgun. He then put the shotgun down, said “I’m crazy” and walked onto the patio. As soon as he started walking away, she took the gun downstairs to the garage. When she came back upstairs to the living room, he walked inside from the patio and threatened to break things. However, she was not in fear for her life once the shotgun was out of the room.
She threatened to call 911. Once she dialed 911 on her landline, he told her to hang up, which she did. When 911 called back, he told her not to answer it so she did not. Mr. James started throwing objects around the house and his wife positioned herself in front of her mother’s cabinet of family heirlooms to protect them.
When the police arrived about 10-15 minutes later, she opened the door while Mr. James was upstairs. She told Officer Miller that Sled was throwing items and calling her names. He advised her to leave.
After she grabbed a few belongings and pulled her car out of the garage, she talked with Officer Miller again away from the front door this time. This time, she told him about the gun incident. She then left the premises.
She testified that he has never hit her but he did have many “angry days.” In a previous police report on January 13, 2019, Mr. Sled threatened to shoot her family members. However, he has never visited them, about two hours away.
The next witness was Officer Alec Miller who responded to the call. When he first spoke to the wife, he did not try to make contact with Mr. Sled. She looked anxious and like she had been crying, with teary eyes and a flushed red face.
Once she mentioned the gun incident and that Sled was still inside, he called for back up. They made a PA announcement for about 30 minutes to get Mr. Sled to come out from the residence. Miller then talked to Mr. Sled on the phone for about five minutes, which eventually coaxed him out.
Mr. Sled made a statement to Officer Miller that he was just waving the shotgun around and it had no ammunition. He was just making threats in “idiotic anger.” Mr. Sled said he never pointed the gun at his wife.
The police officers who searched the residence recovered two shotguns. They did not take any pictures inside the residence and Officer Miller did not recall any mention about the state of the inside of the residence.
In closing arguments, the prosecution pressed on the issue of “sustained fear” and presented the question: how long does one need to be in fear for it to be “sustained fear”? She argued that having the shotgun was enough, and the wife following commands to hang up the 911 call shows some fear of Sled.
The defense first stated that Mr. Sled is 59 years old with no criminal history. The defense moved to make this charge a misdemeanor, because he made no more threats after the wife removed the gun.
The prosecution argued that it should not be a misdemeanor because she did not know if the shotgun was loaded and he had already displayed erratic behavior. Just having a weapon in his hand is enough of a threat.
The court agreed with the prosecution and held Mr. Sled to answer to the charge. Judge David Rosenberg stated that pointing a shotgun at someone’s face is felony behavior. He also said that mere seconds is enough to be considered “sustained fear.” However, a jury will decide if the two minutes truly counts as “sustained fear.”