Prosecutors have enough evidence to try former San Bernardino County Sheriff's Deputy Ivory J. Webb Jr., who is charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter for shooting an unarmed Air Force police officer after a high-speed chase in Chino in January, a judge ruled Monday.
The central focus of Webb's preliminary hearing before Judge Michael A. Smith on Monday was a video shot by a bystander, which was televised nationwide. It appeared to show Webb kick Airman Elio Carrion and shout profanities at him before telling him to get up, then shooting him three times as Carrion appeared to follow the order.
As Deputy Dist. Atty. R. Lewis Cope played the video in San Bernardino County Superior Court, Carrion's wife, Mariela, who is five months pregnant, wept and covered her face.
On the witness stand, Carrion testified that he drank beer and tequila shots at a Jan. 29 barbecue to celebrate his return from Iraq and did not remember getting into the Corvette with his friend Luis Escobedo, who led deputies on a high-speed chase through Chino in the late evening as they tried to stop him for speeding. After Escobedo crashed, the video showed Carrion sprawled on the pavement with Webb standing over him as Carrion told him he was "on your side" and in the military.
Webb's attorney, Michael D. Schwartz, pressed Carrion, 22, to acknowledge that he had not followed Webb's orders to "shut the [expletive] up" while he was on the ground. Schwartz also questioned whether Carrion tried to reach into his jacket shortly before the deputy shot him.
Schwartz repeatedly replayed a portion of the tape just preceding the shooting in which it appeared that Carrion moved one of his hands in front of his chest just before he appeared to follow the order to get up.
"Do you recall putting your hand inside your jacket?" Schwartz asked Carrion. "No ... I didn't put my hand in my jacket," Carrion replied.
Luis Carrillo, Carrion's attorney in the civil case filed against Webb, said Schwartz was "grasping for straws" with his questions.
But Schwartz said the enhanced video footage shown in court Monday illustrated that the media had portrayed Carrion as more cooperative with Webb, 45, than he actually was.
"I think we saw that Mr. Carrion put his hands inside his jacket right before he was told to get up, or not" get up, said Schwartz, who had left open the possibility that in the video, Webb may have been telling Carrion not to get up.
"We saw that Mr. Carrion exchanged profanities with my client," Schwartz said after the hearing. "It wasn't quite the picture put out by the media.
"Regardless of how the evidence falls out at the end of the day, it will show that this case belongs in civil court," Schwartz said. "It does not belong in criminal court."
Webb did not testify but watched the tape quietly with his hands folded on the table in front of him. Neither he nor Carrion showed emotion as it was played.
Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Swigart testified Monday that at the scene of the shooting Webb told him that Carrion had tried to get up and lunge at him.
When Webb was interviewed four days later, after seeing the video, he told investigators that Carrion appeared to be reaching for a gun inside his jacket and that he feared for his life, according to sheriff's reports obtained by The Times.
The man who recorded the video, Jose Luis Valdes, testified through an interpreter that Carrion never lunged at Webb or made threatening motions. Webb's attorney questioned Valdes' ability to see Carrion's motions in the dark street.
Carrion's wife said her husband spent 3 1/2 months in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds to his chest, shoulder and leg. She said he still cannot run or play basketball because of his leg wound.
He is no longer serving as military policeman at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana but has remained with the unit doing office work, she said.
"I would just like to see justice -- that the officer pay for his crime.... He shouldn't just get away with it," Mariela Carrion said outside the courtroom.
Webb, who left the department April 13, will next appear in court Sept. 11, when the trial goes forward.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times