Man Charged in Shooting on Freeway
A Santa Ana roofer arrested in connection with the freeway shooting of a 28-year-old motorist last weekend near the Orange County Fairgrounds was charged Tuesday with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and firing at an inhabited vehicle.
Albert Carroll Morgan, 32, covered his face with his manacled hands as news cameras photographed him in Harbor Municipal Judge Selim S. Franklin’s courtroom while his attorney argued against the prosecution’s proposed $200,000 bail.
“Obviously this is a tragic case,” attorney Paul Meyer said. “He (Morgan) does take this case very seriously. But for the tragic circumstances, this is a case of firing a weapon at a vehicle or trying to scare someone.”
Franklin, saying that the circumstances of the shooting do not “give me much confidence in his responsibility,” set Morgan’s bail at $100,000.
“People who carry loaded weapons in a car not only are breaking the law but (are engaging in) dangerous business,” Franklin said. “He carried a loaded firearm. That shows premeditation . . . that he intended to use it.”
The incident, which left Paul Gary Nussbaum of Rolling Hills Estates paralyzed from the neck to the waist, a bullet lodged in his neck, is one of four shootings on Southland freeways this summer.
Meyer called the Orange County case “a rash, single incident that involved no premeditation and no sophistication.”
He said there was “no awareness on the part of Mr. Morgan that there had been any injury” when he left the scene of the shooting Saturday evening. Morgan was arrested in the fairgrounds parking lot moments after the shooting.
Nussbaum was in critical condition Tuesday, authorities said.
“The victim is still on the life-support system,” Costa Mesa Police Lt. Rick Johnson said. “We haven’t gone over to interview him or talk to him. He’s not stabilized yet.”
Franklin postponed Morgan’s arraignment until next Monday to give Morgan’s attorney time to familiarize himself with the case. Morgan did not enter a plea.
Morgan was transferred to Orange County Jail. His wife, Lonnie Joy Morgan, 28, was present in the courtroom but declined to speak with reporters.
Meyer said Morgan and his wife feel sympathy for the relatives of the victim.
Johnson said Morgan had invoked his right to remain silent when arrested Saturday and was not questioned by police. There is no evidence that Morgan had consumed drugs or alcohol, Johnson said, but test results from a blood sample are still awaited.
One of Morgan’s Santa Ana neighbors described him and his wife Tuesday as “real decent people.”
“It seemed kind of funny when I heard about it,” Dave Echevarria said. “He never seemed like a high-tempered person. He used to go hunting a lot and used to use a bow and arrow.”
Jockeying for Position
Morgan’s attorney stressed in court that his client had never done “anything close to this.”
In 1979 Morgan was charged with a misdemeanor count of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, court records show. That charge was dismissed when Morgan pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of reckless driving, according to court records. Morgan was fined $195 and sentenced to three years’ probation.
Morgan is accused of shooting Nussbaum as the two drivers jockeyed for position in converging traffic on Newport Boulevard, at the terminus of the Costa Mesa Freeway near Fair Drive, authorities said.
Nussbaum was southbound in heavy traffic in the slow lane of the freeway where it merges with Newport Boulevard, Johnson said. Morgan was trying to turn onto Fair Drive and had argued with other motorists who were passing him on the shoulder to his right, he said.
As Nussbaum’s car came alongside, Morgan leaned to the right in front of his wife in the passenger seat and fired one shot out the passenger’s window of his pickup truck, police said, striking Nussbaum in the neck.
Times staff writer Mariann Hansen contributed to this story.