`He was shooting,' agent testifies

Secret Service man takes stand in '06 firefight at an Arundel mall

October 24, 2007|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

The off-duty Secret Service agent was shopping with his wife and two daughters at Westfield Annapolis mall when a fistfight that broke out among rival teens erupted in gunfire.

As many as nine young men circled another man "like a pack of hyenas and started attacking him," the agent testified yesterday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. A member of the detail that protects the president and vice president, Paul Buta yelled, "Police! Break it off!"

Moments later, he was hit by a bullet near the hip, a 16-year-old Annapolis boy had taken a gunshot to the leg and Buta drew his service weapon and fired at the gunman.

"He was shooting at me," Buta said. "I was shooting back at him."

Buta, making his first public comments about the Nov. 18, 2006, firefight, was one of several key witnesses to testify yesterday against Javaughn Norman Adams, 19, who is charged with two counts of attempted murder in the shooting.

Assistant State's Attorney Jennifer M. Alexander said in her opening statement that Adams was involved in a long-running rivalry between city public housing neighborhoods and on that Saturday evening was "shooting to kill."

Adams, she said, "was going to settle that score that had been brewing for months at Annapolis High School."

Defense attorney David P. Putzi countered that the shooting of the agent was "entirely unintended."

"Javaughn removed a handgun from his pocket to stop the attack and help his friend," Putzi said.

Buta said he saw a young man surrounded by assailants who pulled his sweat shirt over his head, rendering him nearly defenseless, and beating him to the ground.

Then, Buta alleged, Adams, wearing a black ski mask, fired a handgun, striking Buta and Tahzay Brown, 17, an Annapolis High football player. Buta returned fire from three to seven yards away as his family and hundreds of mall patrons fled.

Buta described the altercation as "a running gunbattle."

Alexander played surveillance tapes that showed the young men walking into the food court and fighting at 7:12 p.m. and 56 seconds. By 7:13 and 12 seconds, the shooting started, according to the tapes.

After Buta fired "six to seven rounds," he said, Adams collapsed and his handgun, shrouded in a black plastic bag, fell to the ground.

Off-duty state police Trooper Wayne Coch came to the aid of the agent. Coch testified yesterday that after he identified himself, the agent gave him his gun, which he used to hold Adams at bay until police arrived.

Defense attorney Frank C. Gray Jr. questioned Buta's statement to police days after the shooting, in which Buta did not mention Adams firing a gun.

The jury also heard from Floyd Simms, who was the victim of the beating, Brown and his cousin, DeJuan Stevens - some of the young men whose apparent neighborhood loyalties sparked the incident.

Stevens, who like Brown lives in Glen Burnie but has ties to the Annapolis Gardens neighborhood, and Simms, of Robinwood, testified that they had fought Sept. 7, 2006, in a hallway of Annapolis High School. Eighteen students were arrested after several brawls over two days.

Simms, who went to the mall Nov. 18 with Adams and other friends, said Stevens approached him near the Panda Express restaurant. "He said, `Whatsup?' I said, `Whatsup?' He swung on me."

While Simms was being beaten, he testifed, his attackers shouted, "ABC!," which stands for Admiral-Bowman-Croll - streets in Annapolis Gardens.

Testimony was scheduled to resume this morning with Coch returning to the stand.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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