The San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy who shot an unarmed Air Force policeman after a high-speed chase in Chino pleaded not guilty Wednesday to attempted voluntary manslaughter.
In his first public appearance since the Jan. 29 shooting, Deputy Ivory John Webb Jr. spoke only briefly when asked a question by the judge. Afterward, the deputy was booked into the county jail in San Bernardino and then released after posting a $100,000 bond.
Webb, 45, is the first law enforcement officer ever charged in an on-duty shooting in San Bernardino County and could get an 18 1/2-year prison sentence if convicted.
The nighttime shooting, which occurred after Webb was involved in a brief high-speed pursuit of a Corvette ending on a residential street in Chino, was videotaped by a nearby resident. Airman Elio Carrion, 21, who had recently returned from Iraq, was a passenger in the car, which stopped after crashing into a fence.
In the grainy, dimly lighted video recording, which prosecutors call a critical piece of evidence against the deputy, Webb apparently tells Carrion to "get up" from a prone position on the pavement. When Carrion starts to rise, Webb shoots him three times.
"We believe there's an offense there," Deputy Dist. Atty. Lewis Cope said after the hearing. "We are going to move forward on this case and prosecute it like any other. We will give it our best efforts."
At Tuesday's hearing, San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Michael A. Smith denied a motion by Webb's attorney, Michael Schwartz, to lower the deputy's bail from $100,000 to $50,000.
Webb "has a house, family and lifetime ties [to Southern California]; he's not planning to move whatsoever," Schwartz argued in court. "There is no malice to his charges, he's not a threat to the community."
Sheriff's spokeswoman Cindy Beavers said that later Wednesday, Webb posted bond and had his mug shot taken before being released from the county's Central Detention Center in San Bernardino.
Wearing a dark gray suit, Webb entered the courtroom through a door near the judge's chambers. Other defendants, if not in custody, typically walk into the courtroom from a public hallway.
Webb, a former University of Iowa football player and the son of a former Compton police chief, said only, "Yes, your honor," when the judge asked his assent to April 28 for the next hearing.
Sheriff Gary Penrod said his department was conducting its own investigation of the shooting, which he expected to be completed in two or three weeks. The FBI is also investigating whether Webb violated Carrion's civil rights. Carrion is recovering from his wounds.
Penrod said he respected the district attorney's decision to file a charge, but both the sheriff and Beavers said it was important for the public to let the court case proceed before judging Webb's actions.
"We would ask everyone to keep an open mind, to look at all the facts and try to understand how this happened," Beavers said. "This is a deputy sheriff. [Webb] was chasing a car going 100 mph at night, by himself. There was fear. What he's being charged with is that his decision to use force while experiencing that fear was unreasonable."
Carrion's attorney, Luis Carrillo, has criticized the decision by Dist. Atty. Michael A. Ramos to charge Webb with attempted voluntary manslaughter instead of the more serious offense of attempted murder.
Later Wednesday, the driver of the speeding Corvette, Luis Fernando Escobedo, appeared in Smith's courtroom and pleaded not guilty to felony evading an officer along with misdemeanor drunk driving and driving while having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher.
Cope, the deputy district attorney, said Escobedo, 23, was also driving without a license because of a DUI charge now being adjudicated in Rancho Cucamonga.
Escobedo has a Friday deadline to make bail of $25,000 or be jailed.
Escobedo's attorney, Antonio Rodriguez, said his client "made some bad choices.... He's extremely sad. He's sorry."
Escobedo is due back in court April 21.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times