The red Ford F-150 Raptor pickup barreled into Cle “Bone” Sloan, shattering his ankles, tearing ligaments in his knees and knocking him unconscious.
It took 17 stitches to close a gash in his head. For months, he needed to use a walker. When he moves his neck now, he feels a piece of chipped bone moving around.
On Monday, about two months after telling detectives that it was rap mogul Marion “Suge” Knight who ran him over, Sloan limped to the witness stand in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom and testified that he couldn't say whether the Death Row Records co-founder was behind the wheel.
Sloan, a former gang member turned actor and filmmaker, said he couldn’t recall much of the Jan. 29 incident outside Tam’s Burgers in Compton, where security camera footage captured the moment when Knight's truck plowed into Sloan and another man, Terry Carter, who was killed.
Confronted with a transcript of an interview he gave detectives shortly after the incident, Sloan cried during the preliminary hearing.
“I don't want it to get misconstrued that I told on this man,” he said, pointing at Knight, who sat quietly in court wearing orange jail scrubs. “I'm no snitch.... I will not be used to send Suge Knight to prison.”
He also admitted initiating a fight with Knight at the burger stand immediately before the killing, testifying that he punched Knight in the face.
Monday's courtroom scene highlighted the difficulty prosecutors face in the murder and attempted murder case against Knight, whom they have portrayed in court documents as a “prolific and unrepentant criminal” who has led a “shameless life of crime.”
A prosecutor read from the interview transcript in which Sloan told detectives he confronted Knight earlier that day on the set of a commercial about the biopic “Straight Outta Compton” and later near Tam's Burgers. In court, Deputy Dist. Atty. Cynthia Barnes asked Sloan if he remembered seeing Knight at the burger stand that day.
“No, ma’am,” Sloan replied.
A few minutes later, in response to another question, Sloan glanced at Knight and said, “I can’t say this man ran over me.”
Sloan, who described himself as a technical advisor on the film hired to help bridge the gap between the gang and movie worlds, testified he may have “embellished” his comments to detectives and said he couldn’t recall specifics and remembered only scant details.
At one point, L.A. County Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen said he believed Sloan was being “deceptive.” Sloan shook his head.
After a break during cross-examination by Knight’s attorney, Sloan’s lawyer said his client was invoking his right against self-incrimination. The prosecutor agreed to give Sloan immunity, which bars his testimony from being used against him.
Nevertheless, Sloan didn’t answer some questions. Asked whether one of the other men at the burger stand was a gang member he said, “I’m not going to dirty anybody up here.”
The prosecutor played an audio recording of Sloan telling two L.A. County sheriff’s detectives what happened the day of the killing.
On the recording, Sloan said the movie’s producers didn’t want Knight on the set and that Sloan approached Knight and asked him to leave, telling him “you got the white folks scared.”
Later in the day, Sloan told investigators, he missed a turn on the way to a filming location and drove by the burger joint, where he spotted Knight’s truck. He pulled into the parking lot and confronted Knight after hearing Knight telling someone he wanted to beat up Sloan.
“I was like, ‘Do it now,’” Sloan recalled for detectives, adding that Knight then smiled.
Sloan said he punched Knight in the face and the two exchanged punches before Knight fidgeted with his truck’s gear shift. He told detectives he thought Knight had a gun. On the recording, Sloan said Knight told him, “I’m going to kill you.”
“Not today,” Sloan said he responded.
Sloan told detectives that he couldn’t recall much about what happened next, according to the recording. He said he did remember seeing the undercarriage of Knight’s truck and calling out to Carter.
“I remember saying, “Terry! Terry! Terry!” he said.
The prosecutor also played the security footage from Tam’s showing a truck running over two men. A coroner’s official testified that Carter was killed by blunt-force trauma from being run over.
The prosecutor shuffled through photographs of Carter’s bloodied, bruised body to enter them into evidence when Carter’s daughter, sitting in the audience behind her, caught a glimpse. The daughter gasped loudly and ran out of the courtroom.
Outside the courthouse, Knight’s attorney, Matthew Fletcher, said Sloan’s claims that he was the aggressor and his refusal to answer questions without immunity hurt the prosecution’s case.
“Any day you start off with the star witness needing immunity is a good day,” he said, smiling.
The preliminary hearing resumes Thursday.
For more news from the Los Angeles County criminal courts, follow @marisagerber.