The man accused of stealing from a Kmart in Burbank and then shooting and wounding two police officers while handcuffed and being taken to a patrol car pleaded not guilty to attempted murder charges this week.
Jamie Warren Willard, 30, of Gresham, Ore., pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court and is scheduled to appear next month for a pre-trial hearing.
On Aug. 23, a Superior Court judge ruled there was sufficient evidence to proceed with a trial after two days of testimony in a preliminary hearing that revealed how events allegedly unfolded on July 2, 2010, when prosecutors say Willard shot and wounded two police officers in an effort to escape custody.
Willard’s public defender, John Love, argued during the preliminary hearing that testimony provided by the officers and witnesses was “utterly, completely different,” and that the charges should be dropped.
Love noted the differing accounts of how many shots were fired and at what point during the struggle they were fired.
Burbank Officer Derek Green, who along with Officer Alex Gutierrez was involved in the incident, testified that he thought two or more shots were fired by Willard, who allegedly took Gutierrez’s gun from him while in handcuffs.
Both officers sustained injuries — Green to his left hand and left thigh and Gutierrez to his left arm, left leg and chest area.
Love requested that the judge dismiss the case, saying a witness testified hearing only two sets of gun shots. He also questioned whether Gutierrez’s hand was on the gun at the moment Gutierrez said he thought the first set of shots when off.
“The evidence raises more questions than it answers and I don’t think this rises to probable cause,” Love said.
But Los Angeles County Deputy District Atty. Mary Murray said it was evident Willard was doing everything to escape, beginning with being combative with loss prevention officials at the Kmart.
Murray said Willard calculated a way to get the cuffs off by saying they were too tight, and then attempted to escape after swinging a fire extinguisher at a store security guard.
She acknowledged the sequence of events wasn’t clear and that people’s perceptions were different, but pointed out that it all happened in 20 seconds or less.
“The only reasonable inference with respect to what Mr. Willard attempted to do with that gun was to kill the police officers,” she said.
Throughout the two-day hearing, Willard sat mostly quiet and unemotional, leaning forward only periodically for testimony from the officers.
“We know he wasn’t simply trying to escape because he didn’t run away,” she said. “We know he didn’t accidentally get the gun because he never dropped it. The only way the gun came out of his hands was when Gutierrez tackled him and got it out of his hands.”
Willard is scheduled to appear Oct. 6 for a pre-trial hearing in Pasadena. He is being held in lieu of $4 million bail. If convicted, he faces a state prison sentence of 25 years to life for each count of attempted murder of a peace officer.