08:13 AM PDT on Thursday, June 28, 2007
SAN BERNARDINO - Jury deliberations are set to begin this morning in the case of the first San Bernardino County sheriff's deputy to be prosecuted for an on-duty shooting.
"My client had an honest fear and a reasonable fear," defense attorney Michael Schwartz said Wednesday on behalf of ex-deputy Ivory Webb Jr., who is arguing self-defense in his wounding of a drunken off-duty military policeman.
Webb, 46, could be imprisoned for nearly 20 years if convicted of the most serious charge he faces, attempted voluntary manslaughter. Both sides agree that Air Force military policeman Elio Carrion was hit by three .45-caliber bullets fired by Webb following a January 2006 car chase and confrontation in Chino.
Webb had been under extreme stress, the defense argues, because the lone officer was facing two potentially dangerous suspects who had been driving at 100 mph so recklessly that any reasonable officer would have suspected they were desperate to escape.
A neighborhood resident videotaped the shooting, and the tape was enhanced by the Sheriff's Department and the FBI.
The tape begins with Webb holding Carrion at gunpoint, while Carrion is sprawled on the ground outside the crashed Corvette. And it appears to show Webb open fire as Carrion is complying with the officer's orders to get up.
"There is no issue, even though the defense would like you to believe there is, whether or not (Webb) asked Mr. Carrion to get up," San Bernardino County Deputy District Attorney Lewis Cope told the jury. "That's what's being said."
Webb emphasized the order by gesturing with his pistol for Carrion to rise, Cope said.
Rather than shooting in self-defense, Webb fired because he was angry and emotionally out of control, Cope said.
Webb says that the shooting was justified because he truly believed he had to shoot to defend himself against Carrion, who the defense says reached into his jacket -- as if grabbing for a gun -- and seemed to lunge toward the officer while rising off the ground.
Carrion was unarmed. But the deputy faced a tense, uncertain and rapidly changing situation that required him to make a split-second decision on whether to shoot, Schwartz told the jury.
"That's this case," said Schwartz. "Self-defense doesn't even have to mean (Carrion) had a gun."
What matters, the lawyer told the jury, is whether Webb reasonably believed he was in imminent danger of death or great bodily injury.
And Webb couldn't see Carrion's hand fully, Schwartz said.
"Deputy Webb, that night, wasn't watching an enhanced video," Schwartz argued.
As Schwartz tells it, it was Carrion -- not Webb -- who was angry that night, as well as uncooperative, defiant and threatening toward the deputy.
If Webb had lost all emotional control, as the prosecutor argued, the officer wouldn't have fired three controlled shots and immediately radioed for paramedics, Schwartz told the jury.
But the prosecutor warned the jury to be skeptical of Webb's version of events.
For example, Webb's claims of being under extreme stress are wildly exaggerated because there's evidence that shows he lied about nearly having a head-on collision with the Corvette just before the crash and confrontation, Cope said.
"That simply didn't happen," said Cope, displaying photographs of skid marks at the crash scene.
Reach Richard Brooks at 909-518-4979 or rbrooks@PE.com