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Suspect in Officer's Death Hated Police, Prosecutors Say

Courts: Opening arguments begin in trial of Daniel Tuffree, who is accused of murdering Simi Valley cop.

July 30, 1996|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

VENTURA — The day he shot a Simi Valley officer to death, prosecutors said Monday in opening statements to a Ventura County jury, Daniel Allan Tuffree already hated the police.

Tuffree also had run out of Valium, grown frustrated with his doctors and insurers and loaded his gun with an especially deadly brand of large-caliber bullets when police came to check on his well-being, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Peter Kossoris.

"He was a good shot," Kossoris said. "He had been to the shooting range a little over a week before."

And when Officers Michael Clark and Michael Pierce and Sgt. Anthony Anzilotti tried to coax Tuffree outside, the former social studies teacher with a master's degree in political science began shooting, Kossoris said.

"Officer Clark dropped," Kossoris told jurors. "He died in a pool of blood on the patio."

Clark, formerly a member of the Los Angeles Police Department, left behind a young son and a widow--Jenifer Clark--who seemed near tears as she listened to Kossoris' opening statement.

Tuffree could face the death penalty. He is charged with murder, attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon in a gunfight that went on for 20 minutes before police crashed through a wall of his house with an armored vehicle and SWAT officers arrested him.

When Tuffree's lawyers make their opening statements this morning, they plan to argue that Tuffree shot in self-defense when Clark fired first. And they plan to argue that the police response to a call expressing concern for his welfare was excessive.

But the jurors left the courtroom for the day with tapes of a police interview ringing in their ears--the sound of Tuffree describing how he aimed at Clark's abdomen and fired.

The case opened Monday morning--nearly a year after Clark died--with jurors being quizzed by the judge.

Superior Court Judge Allan L. Steele asked how many of the 12 jurors and five alternates had heard or read news accounts about the recent slayings of a CHP officer and a Ventura County sheriff's deputy.

Nearly all said they saw reports on the deaths of California Highway Patrolman Don J. Burt and Ventura County Deputy Peter J. Aguirre Jr., but they assured Steele they would still render a fair verdict.

Then Kossoris launched into a 2 1/2-hour statement outlining a case that is scheduled to take 55 witnesses five weeks to explain.

The case will involve wounds and bullet paths, Kossoris said, Valium and states of mind, standard police procedures and the dramatic SWAT team attempts to save Clark's life.

He will present witnesses to say Tuffree had previously talked about hating police, Kossoris said.

And he said jurors might be bused to the crime scene to look at Tuffree's house on Aztec Court.

By the time Clark arrived there Aug. 4, 1995, and called for backup officers when Tuffree would not answer his door, Tuffree had already placed more than a dozen calls to his doctor, psychiatrist and HMO, Kossoris said.

His Valium prescription had run out because he was using more than prescribed, and he was anxious to get more, Kossoris told jurors.

An insurance worker called a psychiatric caseworker to say that he was worried that Tuffree had been consuming alcohol and Valium for two days and might not be well. Eventually, the police were called.

Clark knocked on Tuffree's door, but got no answer, Kossoris said.

The officer then called for backup, and when Sgt. Anzilotti and Officer Pierce arrived, the three policemen went through a gate to the side yard.

Clark began talking to Tuffree through the kitchen window, hand on his holstered service pistol, trying to get the man to come outside so police could see he was all right, Kossoris said.

Clark asked repeatedly to see Tuffree's hands--calmly at first, but then more pointedly as Tuffree refused--until Tuffree laid a gun up on the windowsill, his hand atop it, Kossoris said.

Clark's colleagues will say that he drew his gun and backed away from the house, then the shooting began, Kossoris told jurors.

And Kossoris said witnesses will testify that Clark was hit by two particularly powerful brands of ammunition from Tuffree's .40-caliber Glock--a Hydra-Shock bullet that struck his elbow, and a Black Talon round that punched through his back and killed him.

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