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Witness faults ex-deputy who shot airman

Ivory John Webb Jr. ignored his training when he confronted and shot a man, expert says.

June 12, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

An expert witness testified Monday that the San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who shot an unarmed airman after a car chase engaged in "extraordinarily risky" behavior and abandoned core training principles when he left the safety of his patrol car and held two suspects at gunpoint last year.

Former Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. confronted and shot airman Elio Carrion, 23, after chasing the speeding Corvette that Carrion was riding in before it crashed into a block wall in Chino. A bystander videotaped the incident on his camcorder.

The prosecution's expert, Joe Callanan, testified that as a lone officer on the scene, Webb was trained to stay in a defensive position by his patrol car, using his open door as a shield as he pointed his weapon at the suspects in the car and issued orders over the public address system in his patrol car -- even if the passenger or the driver were to flee.

"You have to have discipline, personal control," said Callanan, a former Los Angeles County sheriff's lieutenant who served for 22 years and specialized in training officers when to use force. "There is no safe approach.... You are stepping into a no-man's land."

Callanan said Webb made the encounter more dangerous by advancing on the two men without backup and using provocative language. He also failed to park his patrol car so its lights would illuminate the scene.

A cadet acting as Webb did during a training course would fail the exam, Callanan said.

Webb's attorneys did not have a chance to cross-examine Callanan Monday and later declined to comment on his testimony.

On Monday, in answer to questions from prosecutor R. Lewis Cope, Callanan testified that he had studied the video of the incident and did not see Carrion make any threatening movement that would have necessitated the use of deadly force.

"This is not what you expect from a trained, experienced peace officer," Callanan testified. "It is simply not reasonable, and there is no explanation for it."

In perhaps the most controversial testimony of the day, Callanan said he noticed that Webb paused for as long as a second between each of the three shots he fired at Carrion -- a technique Callanan referred to as "timed fire." He noted that Webb, in the subsequent investigation, consistently recalled firing three shots.

"Rapid fire is more typical of panic situation.... Timed fire is more deliberate, more thoughtful," Callanan testified. "If you look at officers in threat, they don't know how many rounds were fired because they were concentrated on the threat."

Webb could face more than 18 years in prison for attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The former deputy, who left the Sheriff's Department last year, told officers at the scene that Carrion had lunged at him.

Several days later, he told detectives he thought he had seen Carrion reaching into his Oakland Raider jacket for a weapon.

Carrion testified last week that he never reached into his jacket but acknowledged that both he and the driver, a high school friend, were intoxicated and did not follow Webb's orders to be quiet.

Carrion was home on leave in January 2006 after serving a six-month tour in Iraq. He survived three bullet wounds to the chest, shoulder and leg and is back on duty at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

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