Teen Testifies at Sniper Suspect's Trial
Oct. 29, 2003
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) _ A teenager shot during last year's sniper spree calmly recalled the events for a jury Wednesday at the trial of sniper suspect John Allen Muhammad.
Iran Brown, shot on Oct. 7, 2002, outside a Bowie, Md., middle school, said the shooting ``brought me closer to God.''
Brown, now 14 but 13 at the time of the shooting, testified for less than two minutes and was not cross-examined by defense lawyers.
``I walked out (of the car) and I put my bookbag down and I got shot,'' Brown told the jury.
He then walked back to his aunt's car, who drove him to a nearby urgent care treatment center, he said.
Brown's family had initially been unwilling to allow the teen to testify. Richard G. Brydges, an attorney for the family, had filed a motion seeking to quash prosecutors' subpoena for Brown's testimony. On Wednesday morning, though, Brydges told Circuit Judge LeRoy F. Millette Jr. that the family, after consulting with prosecutors, was willing to allow the boy to testify.
The family is ``comfortable with young Mr. Brown taking the stand,'' Brydges said, in withdrawing the motion.
The Brown shooting occurred just a few hours after Montgomery County, Md., police had held a news conference to announce that police oofficers had been posted at schools for protection.
Montgomery County police Capt. Nancy Demme testified that the officer were placed at schools ``not only as a deterrent but also to give the public piece of mind.''
The school where Brown was shot is in neighboring Prince George's County.
On Tuesday, prosecutors heard testimony from another shooting survivor, Caroline Seawell.
Seawell said she knew she had been shot immediately, but the people standing near her outside the Michaels craft store near Fredericksburg on Oct. 4, 2002, didn't believe her.
Prosecutors also presented evidence Tuesday from three shootings in Montgomery County, Md., and Washington, D.C., on Oct. 3, 2002 _ a day in which five people died and police and the public learned that a random sniper was in their midst.
Seawell told jurors she never lost consciousness despite the severity of her wounds.
``I felt pain through my back, then my front, heard the noise almost simultaneously, and I knew immediately that I had been shot,'' she said. ``I first prayed, first said a prayer that God would not let me die.''
Her emergency doctor, Kevin H. Beier, testified that the bullet missed her heart by a few centimeters and shredded parts of her liver.
Seawell said a man standing near her did not believe she had been shot.
``I said, 'I've been shot.' He didn't believe me. ... He said 'Are you sure?''' Seawell testified.
On Wednesday, prosecutors played a 911 tape in which a bystander called in saying only that the victim ``was definitely injured,'' then later acknowledging that the woman had apparently been shot.
Another 911 caller reminded the dispatcher that ``you know that sniper thing is going on in Montgomery County.''
Another witness at the scene, Alex Jones, testified that he saw a dark Chevy Caprice with tinted windows and New Jersey tags as he drove through the parking lot.
``It frightened me because the windows were covered. You couldn't see into the car,'' Jones said. ``The car didn't belong.''
Jones said he initiallly stood next to Seawell, then got into his car to try to find a safe place for himself and his wife while he sought help for Seawell.
``I was concerend that whoever did what they did would put a bullet in my head,'' he said.''
Also on Tuesday, a D.C. police officer testified that he pulled Muhammad over Oct. 3 after he ran two stop signs just two hours before the fatal shooting of Pascal Charlot, 72, a retired carpenter and Haitian immigrant.
Henry Gallagher told the jury he watched a dark blue Chevrolet Caprice with tinted windows run through two stop signs near Georgia Avenue, about 30 blocks from the scene of the Charlot shooting.
``I felt he was trying to get away from me,'' Gallagher said.
Gallagher said he let Muhammad off with a warning after verifying that his D.C. driver's license was valid.
It was not until November that Gallagher's superiors, after running a check of his patrol car computer, informed him that he had encountered the sniper suspect. Defense lawyers questioned his recollection of the incident, suggesting that if he had truly recalled the details of the traffic stop _ like Muhammad's face and the Caprice's tinted windows _ he would have recognized its importance when Muhammad was arrested Oct. 24.
Charlot was one of the 10 people slain in the sniper shootings that terrorized the area for three weeks last year, beginning Oct. 2. Muhammad, a 42-year-old Army veteran, is on trial in one of the shootings, that of Dean Harold Meyers outside a Manassas-area gas station on Oct. 9.
Karl Largie, a manager at a Jamaican restaurant across the street from where Charlot was shot, said he saw a dark Chevrolet Caprice with tinted windows drive away from the scene with its lights off.
``It just barely creeped off, like seconds after I heard the sound,'' he said.
Prosecutors must prove multiple murders to obtain a capital murder conviction on one of the two death penalty charges against Muhammad. They spent much of Tuesday detailing the shootings on Oct. 3 that left even police and paramedics scared.
Associated Press Writer Sonja Barisic contributed to this report.