Officer testifies about surviving 'hail of gunfire'

August 27, 1993|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

An Annapolis police officer told a Circuit Court jury yesterday what it was like to be shot at point-blank range and then search frantically for wounds after surviving a "hail of gunfire."

"The gun had been in my face when it went off. It couldn't have missed me," Sgt. Paul Gibbs said.

The 20-year veteran, who escaped injury, testified yesterday as the state's first witness against Darryl Lamonte Jones, 21. Mr. Jones of Annapolis is charged with attempted murder, accused of shooting at Sergeant Gibbs and two other police officers during a drug raid at an Annapolis apartment Feb. 19.

Sergeant Gibbs, a 43-year-old Vietnam veteran, said that after he exchanged gunfire with Mr. Jones, he was sure that he had been hit.

He just didn't know where.

"I knew I'd been shot. I kept checking my hands and face for any blood, but I couldn't find any," he said.

It wasn't until he reached the Anne Arundel Medical Center that the officer discovered a bullet lodged in the collar of his bullet-proof Kevlar vest, about an inch from his neck.

"Thank God for Kevlar. Thank God for bullet-proof vests," Assistant State's Attorney Fred Paone told jurors in opening statements yesterday.

Mr. Jones does not deny shooting at the officers, according to his defense attorney.

However, Assistant Public Defender Keith Gross told jurors, his client was not aware that the five men dressed in all-black commando-style military garb when they burst through his front door at 1 a.m. were police officers.

"This is a case about self defense. This is a case about defending someone you care for. This is a case about necessity, the necessity for survival," the defense counsel said in opening statements.

But Mr. Paone, the prosecutor, said that Mr. Jones had to have known that the men were police officers. They kept shouting out "police" as they secured the apartment, Mr. Paone told the jury.

"This case didn't begin here. This case began in a few moments of terror on the early morning hours of Feb. 19," he said.

Sergeant Gibbs testified that he and five members of the Annapolis Police Department's Special Emergency Team burst into Mr. Jones' apartment at 7 Town Pines Court at about 1 a.m. Feb. 19, armed with a warrant and intent on searching for drugs.

The first officer through the front door, Officer Terry Shea, found a man in the kitchen and stepped toward him to search him for weapons, according to testimony. Sergeant Gibbs stepped around him and ran down the four-room apartment's central hallway to secure the apartment.

"I yelled 'police, police' as loud as I could as I ran through the kitchen," Sergeant Gibbs said.

When he encountered a locked bedroom door, he put a shoulder to it and burst through, only to find Mr. Jones and his .22-caliber handgun staring him in the face, the sergeant testified.

"In that precise instant, he fired," Sergeant Gibbs said.

The shot dropped Sergeant Gibbs onto his back in the doorway, and the two men exchanged gunfire. The officer fired 18 shots from his 9-mm Beretta.

Hearing the shots, Cpl. James Doran, who was in a nearby bathroom with another suspect, came to the sergeant's assistance and was shot in the right side of the abdomen and in the left leg before he fell back into the bathtub.

"The only way I can describe it is a hail of gunfire," Corporal Doran told jurors.

Officer Shea, who was carrying a bullet-proof shield, ran behind it toward the gunfire and rushed at Mr. Jones, forcing him into the bedroom closet where he surrendered, according to testimony. The entire episode lasted about 15 seconds, Sergeant Gibbs said.

Mr. Gross told jurors that Mr. Jones was reacting out of fear, not malice. Mr. Jones' apartment had been robbed twice in the weeks before police burst in, the most recent robbery being the night before the raid, the defense counsel said.

"This case is about fear, and what fear can do to the mind of a young man," he said. He asked jurors to weigh carefully the testimony presented by Mr. Paone of the uniformed police officers who participated in the raid.

"He's going to try to paint this case with the brush of law and order. But this case is about more than law and order. This case is about justice," Mr. Gross said.

The trial is before Judge Lawrence H. Rushworth.

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