WESTMINSTER — A prosecution witness on Thursday contradicted previous testimony about the sequence of shots fired by Joselito (Jerry) Cinco the night he gunned down three San Diego police officers, killing two of them.
Cinco's trial, which was moved to Orange County from San Diego on grounds that publicity about the case was excessive, ended its first week Thursday with the eighth prosecution witness on the stand.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Richard Neely has argued that Cinco acted with premeditated malice and showed special intent when he killed officers Timothy Ruopp, 31, and Kimberly Tonahill, 24, on Sept. 14, 1987, in an area of Balboa Park called Grape Street Park. Officer Gary Mitrovich, 29, was wounded in the nighttime gun battle.
Defense attorney John Cotsirilos has not denied that Cinco shot the officers, but Cotsirilos said that the incident was neither premeditated nor deliberate. Cinco does not deserve the death penalty, Cotsirilos argued.
Blamed on Drug Use
The defense attorney has blamed the killings on Cinco's excessive drug use, which he said stemmed from mounting financial and family problems.
On Tuesday, Ernest Silva, who was in the park with a girl on the night of the incident, testified that he saw a gunman walk over to the downed Ruopp and shoot him again. After shooting Ruopp, the man walked over to Tonahill, who was the first officer felled by Cinco, and shot her again, Silva said.
However, Silva's version of the shootings was contradicted Thursday by Dana Andreasen, a teen-age eyewitness, who said she heard two quick volleys fired by Cinco.
Andreasen, who was 15 when the shootings occurred, said she couldn't remember telling Cotsirilos in November, 1984, that she was "sure" that Cinco had not walked over to the downed officers and shot them again.
Didn't Deny Comment
Andreasen, who spent two days on the stand as a prosecution witness, did not deny making that comment, but said that she has forgotten some details of the incident.
Andreasen, now 18, and a friend, Gina Hensel, who was 16 at the time, had accompanied Cinco, 28, and Victor Casillas, 26, to the park. Casillas, who met Hensel on the night of the shootings, ended up marrying her and the couple now has a baby boy. Only Cinco has been charged with a crime in the incident.
Though the two girls ducked in the back seat of Ruopp's patrol car when the shooting began, Andreasen testified that she heard two quick volleys fired by Cinco with a short pause in between, before Mitrovich arrived. The first series consisted of about three quick shots, and the second about five, she said.
If Andreasen's recollection is accurate, it is possible that Cinco would not have had the time to walk over to the downed officers, who were separated by about the length of a patrol car, and fire a final bullet into their bodies before Mitrovich arrived.
Never Drew Weapons
Silva's testimony also indicated that there was at least one lengthy pause between shots before Mitrovich arrived to check on Ruopp and Tonahill. Before Mitrovich's arrival, Cinco was the only one firing because Tonahill and Ruopp never got to draw their weapons.
Ronald White, another eyewitness, testified Monday that he saw a "continuous muzzle flash" aimed at Tonahill and Ruopp. However, White and Silva were unable to identify Cinco as the gunman.
Gina (Hensel) Casillas said Thursday that she could not remember the sequence of shots.
Her husband, Victor, took the stand late in the afternoon and will continue his testimony Monday. Under questioning by Neely, Victor Casillas said that he heard "about 3 or 4 shots, rapid fire" and then saw Tonahill lying on the ground.
Casillas also testified that in the hours preceding the shootings, he and Cinco took a large quantity of drugs and drank several beers. According to Casillas, they "free-based" about 1 grams of cocaine, ingested more of the drug and smoked marijuana before picking up the two girls at 10 p.m.
Cinco and Casillas were automobile mechanics at the Montgomery Ward department store in Mission Valley at the time of the killings. Hours before the shootings, the two men were joined by co-workers Alex Macias, Evelyn Tonelli and Humberto Pintor--all automobile mechanics--in a night of heavy cocaine use and beer drinking, prosecutor Neely said.
In his opening statement, Cotsirilos said that Cinco was in a drug stupor on the night of the incident. However, the Casillas couple and Andreasen testified that Cinco appeared to be in full control of his faculties when Ruopp and Tonahill contacted them at the park.