Attorneys for a former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy who shot an unarmed airman rested their case Thursday without calling the deputy to the stand.
The defense called just three witnesses during the four-week trial. A forensics alcohol expert testified about the shooting victim’s level of intoxication; a tactics expert told the jury the shooting was justified; and Thursday, a psychologist testified that officers often give unclear commands in high-stress situations.
Ivory John Webb Jr. could face 18 years in prison if convicted of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm for shooting Elio Carrion. Carrion, 23, was a passenger in a Corvette that led Webb on a 100-mph pursuit before it crashed.
During a confrontation videotaped by a bystander, Webb fired at Carrion three times as the airman appeared to follow orders from Webb to “get up” from the ground next to the car.
William Lewinski, a psychologist and law enforcement professor at Minnesota State University, Mankato, did not offer his opinions about Webb’s thought process when he confronted Carrion and the Corvette’s driver.
But Lewinski testified that a lone officer dividing attention between two subjects -- who were not following orders or showing their hands at all times -- would create a situation that is “very high stress for any officer.”
Lewinski said he had studied similar situations in which officers did not have control and feared for their lives. “Their analytical process began to collapse,” he testified. “They had so much to do that, literally, they were overloaded.”
Lewinski cited an example of an officer who, facing a suspect with a knife, repeatedly shouted “Show me your hands!” even though both hands were visible.
The officer was trying to say “Drop the knife” but resorted to familiar commands from his training.
Jurors could begin deliberations as early as Tuesday, and one of their chief considerations may be Webb’s state of mind when he ordered Carrion to get up.
Carrion, who survived the shooting, testified he never threatened Webb and tried to calm the officer down by stating that he and the Corvette’s driver were unarmed. In segments of an interview with detectives that was read during the trial, Webb said he felt threatened when he saw Carrion reach toward his jacket -- possibly for a weapon.
At that moment in the video, the airman is seen pointing to his chest in what he said was a gesture for emphasis that Webb should believe him. Webb had repeatedly told Carrion to keep his hands on the ground.
In the next few seconds, Webb told investigators, he might have said “Get up,” but his mind was racing. He was startled by Carrion’s rise from the ground, he said, because he recalled giving the opposite command, which does not appear on the videotape.
Lewinski also rebutted testimony from the prosecution’s police tactics expert.
Joe Callanan, who saw no justification for Webb to fire, had testified that Webb fired three carefully timed shots, which he said suggested the shooting was calculated and not a panicked response to a threat.
There was 0.63 of a second between the first and second shot and about half a second between the second and third shot.
Lewinski, who said he had been investigating officer-involved shootings for three decades, said that would be “barely enough time” for the officer to set his target and shoot.
“There’s no mental resources available for judgment within that time frame,” he testified.