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Airman shot in Chino testifies

He says he was just trying to calm the S.B. County deputy who was cursing and pointing a gun at him after the chase.

June 05, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

The airman who was shot three times last year by a San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy testified Monday that he never threatened the officer but disobeyed commands to be silent because he was trying to defuse the deputy's anger and assure him he "meant no harm."

If convicted, former Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. could face more than 18 years in prison for firing on 23-year-old Elio Carrion, who was held at gunpoint by Webb on a dark street in Chino. The shooting occurred after Webb chased a Corvette driven by Carrion's high school friend at more than 100 mph in January 2006.

The San Bernardino County district attorney's office charged Webb with attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm after the shooting, which was filmed by a bystander. Carrion showed no reaction when the video was played in the courtroom Monday.

The airman, who was a passenger in the Corvette while home on leave after a six-month tour as a military police officer in Iraq, testified that he was trying to calm Webb down as the officer stood over him.

"I was frightened a little bit, because he had a gun pointing at me and was yelling and cussing at me," said Carrion, who got out of the car and lay on the ground after the crash.

"I tried to talk to him to defuse the situation -- to have him know that I wasn't threatening at all."

Carrion, who said he was "buzzed" after drinking at an afternoon barbecue with friends at his parents' house, testified that he continued talking as Webb repeatedly told him, using vulgarities, to shut up.

Just before he was shot, Carrion said, he told Webb, with expletives, that he had more training than Webb and that the officer had "better believe" him.

After that comment, Carrion testified, Webb lowered his voice and answered in a calmer tone.

"The officer says, 'OK, get up, get up,' " Carrion testified.

Carrion confirmed the officer's command by repeating it back, he said.

"As I get up, he shoots me," he testified.

In a contentious cross-examination that spanned most of the afternoon, Webb's lead attorney sharply questioned Carrion's failure to stop the driver of the Corvette, who had been drinking, from leading deputies on a dangerous chase through Chino.

Webb's attorney, Michael Schwartz, quizzed Carrion about his actions during almost every moment of the chase -- asking why the airman did not stop the car by pulling the keys out of the Corvette's ignition or by fighting his friend to make him stop.

"You are trained as a military police officer and you're off duty in the car," Schwartz said. "If a crime takes place in front of you, you have a duty to report it, right?" Schwartz asked.

Yes, Carrion responded.

But, Schwartz continued, during the chase "you don't pick up your cellphone and say you've got a reckless driver.... You don't call 911?"

No, Carrion replied.

Webb, the only officer present during the shooting, initially told detectives that Carrion had lunged at him after ignoring orders to stay on the ground.

Several days later, after watching a clip of the video, the 46-year-old former deputy told detectives he believed Carrion was reaching for a weapon when he fired, which was the explanation Schwartz gave to the jury in his opening argument last week.

On Monday, Schwartz used the videotape of the incident to challenge Carrion's recollections about where his hands were and whether he followed Webb's commands to stay on the ground.

Carrion testified, for example, that he recalled raising his hand toward the deputy just once to shield his eyes from a bright light either from Webb's flashlight or the patrol car spotlight.

After Schwartz played freeze frames of the enhanced videotape, Carrion acknowledged that he raised his hand more than once toward Webb and that his torso was off the ground at several points when he thought he had been prone on the ground.

But in answers to questions from Schwartz and prosecutor R. Lewis Cope, Carrion said emphatically that he never reached his hand into the Oakland Raider jacket he was wearing that night. Carrion and the driver were unarmed.

The airman was far more precise, and often defiant, during cross-examination by Schwartz than he was in the preliminary hearing.

Throughout the afternoon, Carrion repeatedly slowed down Schwartz's rapid-fire style of questioning by asking him to rephrase the questions or be more specific.

Even after Schwartz reprimanded Carrion about failing to give yes-or-no answers, Carrion emphasized points he wanted to make -- about how much Webb was cursing, for example, and how his own drill sergeant had taught him not to curse when stopping a suspect.

Carrion, who joined the Air Force after high school, told jurors he had spent 3 1/2 months recovering from wounds to his chest, shoulder and left femur, which was shattered and is now held together by a rod.

The prosecutor showed the jury graphic photographs of Carrion's bullet wounds to the leg, shoulder and chest.

Carrion testified that hehad been unable to resume his duties on patrol because his injuries had prevented him from wearing the heavy police vest and weaponry, wrestling suspects to the ground or firing a rifle that could kick back and re-injure his shoulder.

Carrion was asked to describe the pain of the bullet wounds as he lay in the street. At times he screamed for medical aid, Carrion said.

"You can't describe it," Carrion testified. "It's really hot and hurting. I was fighting to stay awake.... At the time, I thought if I close my eyes, or see black, I don't know if I'd wake up again."

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