Tony Hamilton

Beaver County, Utah
Date of Alleged Crime:  September 9, 1999

Tony Alexander Hamilton was convicted of the attempted murder of Sheriff's Deputy John Chambers. Hamilton was a member of a religious commune that had purchased 640 acres of land at Vance Springs, located west of Milford, UT. The commune believed that as a religious organization it possessed tax-exempt status and consequently did not pay taxes. After 5 years of non-payment the property was seized by the taxing authorities.

Hamilton returned to the property after being evicted. When deputies went to arrest Hamilton for trespassing, three of them entered through the south gate of the property while Deputy Chambers entered by climbing over the locked north gate. He had a police dog with him who climbed under the fence. Hamilton was driving his truck when he saw Chambers and drove near him to see if he had a warrant. Apparently none was produced. In order to stop Hamilton, Chambers shot out the two left tires of the truck. According to Hamilton, Chambers also released his trained police dog on him. Hamilton shot the dog, killing it. Then according to Hamilton, Chambers opened fire on him with his service revolver, a weapon that was not accurate at any distance. Chambers fired about 10 shots. Hamilton had a scoped rifle, and fired a single bullet into Chambers' leg from a distance of 130 yards. As a result, Chambers fell to the ground. Hamilton then walked away until he was apprehended by the other deputies.

Hamilton argued he acted in self-defense. When Chambers fired at his truck tires, Hamilton did not necessarily know that he himself was not the target. Chambers release of a trained attack dog was a hostile action. Chambers called back the dog when he saw Hamilton aim at it. The dog was shot in the process of returning. Even without clear danger, shooting the dog sent a warning to Chambers that his initiation of gunfire was not appropriate.

Chambers said he only began firing directly at Hamilton after Hamilton fired at least two shots at him. However, it is believable that Chambers shot first because he was upset that his dog was killed. It is clear that he was emotionally attached to his dog. Witnesses at trial testified that Hamilton was a crack shot, so it is believable that Hamilton, with his scoped rifle, shot Chambers in the leg because he intended to hit his leg and that he did not intend to kill him. The lack of intent is further reinforced by the fact that Hamilton did not try finish Chambers off but left the scene. Chambers was sentenced to 5 years to life in prison. He is still imprisoned as of 2011.  [3/11]


References:  City Confidential - Milford: Death and Taxes, State v. Hamilton

Posted in:  Victims of the State, Utah Cases, Self-Defense Cases