A former sheriff's deputy who shot and wounded an Iraq war veteran after a high-speed chase initially said he thought the man was trying to attack him, then later changed his story, a prosecutor said in opening arguments Tuesday.
Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope said Ivory Webb, a deputy at the time, told Chino police that Senior Airman Elio Carrion "'started to come at me.'"
Later, Webb told authorities he believed Carrion was reaching for a gun in his jacket pocket. Carrion was unarmed.
"It will be up to you to decide whether Mr. Webb should have shot him," Cope told jurors. "He was not under threat, he knew he was not under threat, and he shouldn't have fired."
Cope played an amateur video filmed by a bystander that captured Webb shooting Carrion three times on Jan. 29, 2006.
Webb, 46, has pleaded not guilty to felony charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.
‘He felt this was it’
Defense attorney Michael Schwartz urged jurors not to judge his client after seeing the video just once. He showed them freeze frames from the video and said Webb had tried to avoid a confrontation.
Schwartz said that the street was dark and that Carrion repeatedly ignored Webb's orders. Just before the shooting, Carrion's hand moved toward his jacket, making Webb believe he was going for a weapon.
"He felt this was it. He wasn't going to make it home tonight, and he had less than two or three seconds to make a decision, by himself," Schwartz said.
On the grainy, 40-second video clip, Carrion can be heard swearing at Webb before the deputy tells him, "Get up! Get up!" Webb then shoots Carrion in the chest, left leg and left shoulder as Carrion appeared to be trying to obey the order.
The video was aired repeatedly on national TV. Carrion was hospitalized for several days.
Cope told jurors that after he was shot, the wounded airman can be heard on the video saying to Webb, "'We didn't mean you no harm!'"
Webb responded, "'I'm not (expletive) playing,'" and told Carrion several times to shut up in a profanity-laced tirade, Cope said.
The driver of the car, Luis Escobedo, complained to Webb that Carrion had been following orders, Cope said.
Webb told him to shut up or he could get shot, too, according to the prosecutor.
The situation came about when Carrion and Escobedo decided to take a joyride in a friend's Corvette. Escobedo had a suspended license, Cope said.
A deputy on patrol clocked the Corvette at 100 mph and pursued it, but Escobedo didn't stop. The deputy lost sight of the Corvette, and Webb picked up the pursuit. Escobedo eventually crashed in a Chino neighborhood, where the shooting occurred.
Schwartz said Carrion's blood-alcohol level was later found to be twice the legal limit.
Cope said Webb did not follow protocols when he pulled over the vehicle. Webb approached the car with his gun drawn and flashlight in his hand and began cursing loudly at the airman and his driver, he said.
The prosecutor used a red plastic gun and a large flashlight to demonstrate to the jurors the way Webb approached Carrion, who was on the ground next to the passenger door of the car.
Carrion, now 23, testified at a preliminary hearing that he had been drinking at a barbecue to celebrate his recent return from Iraq.
Schwartz has suggested that Webb might actually have shouted, "Don't get up!"
Frame-by-frame viewing of the tape
During a preliminary hearing, Schwartz played an FBI-enhanced copy of the videotape frame by frame to show Carrion's hand going toward his jacket, a movement that is almost imperceptible when the footage is seen at real speed.
Prosecutors have declined to comment on details of the case. However, when the charges were announced last year, San Bernardino County District Attorney Michael Ramos said Webb believed he was "doing what he needed to do. In our legal analysis, that was unreasonable."
Carrion is working desk duty at Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., still has problems walking long distances, and can't run or fire a weapon, his attorney said. Carrion also has filed a civil claim against San Bernardino County.
The case was delayed one week because Schwartz's wife went into labor on the morning of the scheduled opening statements.