By Mary Shelton
Contradictory and emotional testimony highlighted the second week of the capital murder trial of Steve Woodruff, who has been charged in the shooting death of Riverside Police Department detective Doug Jacobs.
Two officers who testified that they had responded to the 11-99, officer down call, provided differing accounts of the events that occurred when they arrived onscene.
Lt. Gary Leach said that he had been driving some where between the 91 freeway University off-ramp and Lime Street in response to Ben Baker's earlier request for emergency backup, when he heard Baker issue the 11-99 call.
He said that Baker had initially requested his presence onscene and when he tried to radio Baker back, Baker did not immediately respond. Jacobs then said he would do a safety check on Baker. Baker then got on the radio and explained the situation, and Leach said he was on his way.
An agitated Leach testified that he arrived onscene after the shooting, and then walked up the stairs where he heard Parthenia Carr screaming and Baker told him that Jacobs had been shot by a man who was in the downstairs apartment. Other police units arrived and Leach went back downstairs to set up a perimeter around the house, behind some palm trees. He said he never drew his weapon even while walking back downstairs until establishing the perimeter, because he was unaware of the magnitude of the situation.
"Somebody called for help, and I went to try and help them," Leach said, adding that he thought it might have been a fight.
Under cross-examination, Defense attorney Mark Blankenship asked him again about his arrival time, adding that the incident report stated that he had arrived at 14:28, the same time attributed to the 11-99 call, and that officers Giovanni Ili and James Dana had also arrived at that time. Leach testified that Ili and another officer named Lavall Nelson had helped him establish the perimeter, but did not mention Dana's role. He added that he had heard the gunshot that killed a dog in the back yard, but was not aware of who had ordered shots to be fired.
Prosecutor Michael Soccio then played a tape of the radio traffic before and after the shooting.
On the tape, Leach is heard responding to Baker's call for supervision and Jacobs asks to do a safety check. Several minutes later, comes a request for a 11-11, immediate back up by Baker. Leach responds verbally to that call. Approximately 2 minutes, 10 seconds later, Parthenia Carr is heard screaming in the background while Baker yells for an 11-99 saying that Jacobs has been shot. An unidentified officer responds on the radio but Leach is not heard responding to the 11-99. Nelson is then heard yelling on the radio, saying that they were setting up a perimeter onscene.
As the tape played, several of Jacobs' family members and police officers left the courtroom, where many days, it has been standing room only.
Leach later testified that officers could respond onscene by punching in a code, or through their radios, so the time posted by the computer on an incident report might be delayed by several minutes after the officer has arrived.
Nelson, the only African-American officer to testify last week, said he arrived at the same time as Leach and Ili, and said he did not see Dana there.
"Dana may have been there later on," he said.
When Nelson arrived, he saw Leach sitting inside his squad car, and then Leach got out and set up a perimeter with Nelson and Ili. After several minutes, Nelson saw the front door open and a rifle thrown out. He issued commands to Woodruff who was naked, to crawl out while surrendering. Ili cuffed Woodruff and he was placed inside Nelson's squad car. Nelson said that he later heard Woodruff say that he did not mean to kill the officer and had panicked.
Under cross-examination, Nelson admitted the other officers might have arrived "a couple steps" before him and the incident history report placed him onscene at 14:32, four minutes after Leach, Ili and Dana. He testified that he never saw Leach walk up or down the stairwell, before setting up the perimeter. He did see Parthenia Carr, her son, Claude on the stairs and Baker standing in the doorway of the upstairs apartment. Nelson said he directed the two Carrs to the street curb then took his position behind a palm tree as part of a perimeter. When he arrived onscene, he had drawn his gun, he said.
"Given the totality of the 11-11 and 11-99, I'm fairly sure it was a dangerous situation," Nelson said.
He said that when he was in his squad car with Woodruff, he heard him say that he had not meant to kill the officer, but the officer had put his hand on his mama, so he had fired shots in the air. Nelson also said he saw the SWAT team make a tactical entry inside the residence after Woodruff's arrest but never heard any gunfire.
"I didn't hear any shots," he said.
Mark Delgado was washing his wife's car across the street from Woodruff's residence when he said he saw Baker talking to Holly Menzies. Shortly after, he saw a second officer arrive. Woodruff had walked out of the house and looked up the stairwell, yelling "Don't touch my mama. Leave her alone," according to Delgado. Then, Delgado saw Woodruff go back in the house then come out on the porch with a handgun, walk up to the side of the porch near the stairwell, and with his right hand, raised the gun up the stairs and fire two shots, before turning around and walking back inside. Earlier, Baker had testified that Woodruff had used both hands when firing the gun and had remained there while Baker fired his gun three times. Baker had testified that he had not heard Woodruff say anything before the shooting.
Woodruff appeared agitated and upset, and did not appear to think twice when he went into the house to get a handgun, Delgado testified.
Delgado said his wife ran out of the house and they walked towards the back of their house because they "were in a cross- fire." Later, Detective Phil Neglia interviewed him at his house, then told him, it was pretty black and white what happened.
Riverside Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Esperanza said he had responded to the 11-99 call and arrived onscene at around 14:30. He saw many police cars there, and considered it a "very dangerous atmosphere." He ran up the stairwell, and found Jacobs lying on the ground inside the apartment with his feet outside the door. He initiated CPR but Jacobs was not breathing and had no pulse. He said Jacobs had been wearing a police uniform, but no bullet-proof vest.
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