Witness: Victim obeyed deputy
The man who led a San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy on a high-speed chase before crashing a borrowed Corvette in Chino last year testified Wednesday that his passenger was following the deputy’s orders to “get up” off the ground and had his hands in plain view when the officer shot him three times.
The former deputy, Ivory John Webb Jr., is on trial in San Bernardino County Superior Court in the shooting of the off-duty Air Force airman, Elio Carrion, who survived. The incident was recorded on video by a bystander, providing the evidence on which much of the trial has focused.
The Corvette’s driver, Carrion’s high school friend Luis Escobedo, testified Wednesday that neither he nor Carrion had made threatening moves and had assured the officer that they were unarmed.
During cross-examination, however, Webb’s attorney questioned how Escobedo could have tracked what was happening in the darkness.
Webb, 46, is charged with attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. Prosecutor R. Lewis Cope has argued that the shooting was unprovoked and unnecessary.
Escobedo, who served four months in jail after pleading guilty in December to felony evasion and driving under the influence, said he had initially sped away from the deputies in January 2006 because his license was suspended and he had been drinking heavily. He said that during the chase, which reached speeds in excess of 100 mph, Carrion was pleading with him to stop.
“I panicked because I didn’t have a license and I was under the influence,” Escobedo said.
After the shooting, the deputy reported to investigators that he had shot Carrion because the airman disobeyed his orders to stay on the ground and then lunged at him. Webb’s lawyers told the jury earlier that he saw Carrion’s hand disappear into the shadows and believed he was reaching for a weapon, a version Carrion has disputed.
Webb, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, was the only law enforcement officer on scene at the shooting, and the first in San Bernardino County to be charged with a crime in an on-duty shooting. He left the Sheriff’s Department last year and could face more than 18 years in prison if convicted.
Escobedo testified Wednesday that Carrion, who was on a 30-day leave after returning from a six-month tour in Iraq at the time of the shooting, was initially reluctant to take a ride in the Corvette.
Celebrating at a barbecue, Escobedo said he had drunk a 12-pack of beers and five shots of tequila and wanted to show off the Corvette, owned by a friend, to Carrion, who also had been drinking.
After persuading Carrion to get in the car, Escobedo said, he headed for an industrial street along railroad tracks near the border of Chino and Montclair, where he sped past a San Bernardino County sheriff’s car, which began chasing the Corvette but lost its trail.
Webb, who was on patrol nearby, picked up the chase.
As they sped through Montclair and Chino, Escobedo testified, Carrion repeatedly pleaded with him to stop or slow down. Eventually the Corvette hit a dip in the road on Francis Avenue, crossed into the opposing lane, jumped a curb and hit a wall.
After Webb’s patrol car pulled up, he said, Carrion -- who had already gotten out of the Corvette -- immediately lay on the ground in response to an order from the deputy.
Throughout the traffic stop, Escobedo said, he remained in the driver’s seat with his arms outstretched and fingers extended so the deputy could see his hands.
“I wanted to show the officer I wasn’t armed,” he said. “I don’t want to get shot.”
Escobedo testified that Carrion never got up on his knees or moved out of his position on the ground, as the defense has suggested, until the deputy’s order just before he was shot.
Under questioning by defense attorney Michael Schwartz, however, he acknowledged that he had diverted his eyes from Carrion to watch Webb’s gun. “You’d never had a gun pointed at you before ...,” the lawyer suggested. It “scared the hell out of you? You made sure you could see where that gun was?”
Escobedo answered yes.
Schwartz also suggested that it was too dark for Escobedo to see his friend’s actions.
Responding to questions by the prosecutor, however, the driver said the light in the street was bright enough for him to see. “I could see Elio,” Escobedo testified. “I could see what was going on.... I didn’t have any problem.”
He also said he clearly heard Webb tell his friend to “get up, get up,” before he was shot.
“Did you hear him say anything that might prevent Elio from getting up?” the prosecutor asked.
No, Escobedo said. “I just heard gunfire.”
Carrion spent 3 1/2 months recovering from the bullet wounds to his chest, shoulder and leg. He is currently doing desk work at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana; his injuries have prevented him from resuming his duties as a military police officer, his lawyer said.