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Former deputy breaks down in tears in court

Ivory John Webb Jr. cries as his defense attorney ends five hours of closing arguments in Chino shooting case.

June 28, 2007|Maeve Reston | Times Staff Writer

During nearly a month of testimony, former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. rarely showed emotion as witnesses criticized his tactics, judgments and motives the night he shot an unarmed Air Force airman after a high-speed car chase.

But he broke down in tears Wednesday as his attorney ended a nearly five-hour closing argument with a plea to find him not guilty of charges that could put him in prison for more than 18 years.

"This nightmare began for my client a year and a half ago," attorney Michael Schwartz said after comparing Webb to a bird trapped in a cage. On the night of the shooting, Schwartz said, "He just wanted to do his job and go home."

"Do the right thing. Set him free," Schwartz told jurors.

The jury of eight men and four women will begin deliberating this morning on whether Webb is guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter or assault with a firearm.

Webb, 46, is accused of shooting Elio Carrion, a 23-year-old airman who had just returned from a six-month tour in Iraq. A videotape of the incident made by a bystander was a central piece of evidence in the case.

Carrion was a passenger in a Corvette driven by his friend Luis Escobedo, who led Webb and another deputy on a chase at more than 100 mph in Chino.

After the Corvette crashed, Webb kept the two intoxicated men at gunpoint at close range without backup.

Webb shot Carrion as the senior airman appeared to follow the deputy's command to get up from the ground next to the Corvette. But Webb's attorneys contend that the deputy fired in self-defense when he saw Carrion reaching into his jacket, possibly for a weapon, and then rise from the ground in a lunging motion.

Though he is heard on the videotape ordering Carrion to "get up," Webb told detectives he did not recall giving Carrion the order to do so.

At that moment, Schwartz told jurors, Webb was likely confusing his words in fear -- "sputtering out whatever he can get out."

"At that point, you're just trying to get out something -- anything," Schwartz said.

Prosecutor R. Lewis Cope accused the defense of distorting evidence to dramatize the events that led up to the Jan. 29, 2006, shooting.

Cope accused Webb of fabricating stories about Carrion making threats, to justify a shooting. The San Bernardino County prosecutor said the shooting could have been avoided if Webb had been able to control his emotions and had "the courage not to shoot an innocent man."

"Mr. Webb did nothing but incite the situation and create [an] emergency," Cope said.

"You can tell on your own if [Carrion] was being threatening or if he was just a drunk guy who was trying to explain himself," he said.

Carrion survived the shooting and is on duty at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

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maeve.reston@latimes.com

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