Witness testifies in N.H. cop killer's trial
N.H. cop killer's trial starts
By Margot Sanger-Katz
MANCHESTER, N.H. — Manchester Police Officer Simmon Beaule watched Officer Michael Briggs follow two hooded men into a dark alley, but she never saw one of them turn and shoot her colleague.
Testifying yesterday in Michael Addison's capital murder trial, Beaule described watching the pursuit from the front seat of a prisoner transport van in the early hours of Oct. 16, 2006. She looked down to reach for the door handle and heard two shots, she said. When she looked up, she saw Briggs fall to the ground.
Between sobs, Beaule told Hillsborough County Superior Court jurors about the immediate aftermath of Briggs's shooting, when other nearby officers chased and shot at the fleeing gunman and she knelt beside her fallen comrade.
"He was laying on the ground with his bike still through his legs, and I tried to make him more comfortable," Beaule testified yesterday. "I knelt on the ground next to him, and I started to talk to him and tell him that everything was going to be okay and that he was fine and that the ambulance was on its way.
"His breathing was just labored, so I lifted up his shirt and I loosened his bulletproof vest so he could have more room to breathe. And I just kept looking into his eyes to tell him that he was going to be fine. He was looking right through me."
Beaule said she wanted to shoot the fleeing man in a red sweatshirt but couldn't get a clear shot without aiming into a nearby house. Instead, she watched as fellow officers chased the shooter and she tended to Briggs.
If Addison is found guilty of capital murder, he could face the death penalty. To win such a conviction, prosecutors must show that Addison "knowingly" killed Briggs in the line of duty.
Lawyers for Addison, 28, have acknowledged that their client was responsible for Briggs's death, but they say he shot recklessly, without intent to kill Briggs, a 35-year-old bicycle patrol officer and father of two from Concord. The defense has focused on inconsistencies in eyewitness testimony to undermine officers' credibility and to suggest that the police don't know why Addison fired.
Prosecutors argue that Addison killed Briggs to avoid arrest for a series of felonies he had committed earlier with another man, Antoine Bell-Rogers.
Yesterday, Beaule broke down on the stand as she described seeing Briggs lying on the ground, prompting tears from two close family members of Briggs seated in the front row of the courtroom. The trial's audience has dwindled since it began Monday, but Briggs's family and Manchester police officers continued to fill two rows of seats. Three women and two men, whom Addison's lawyers described as relatives, sat on the defense side.
Beaule's emotional testimony ended a trial day that had been mostly consumed by detailed cross-examinations of other police witnesses. David Rothstein, a public defender who delivered the defense's opening statement and has cross-examined several officers, has argued that in a fast-moving, emotional event like the Briggs shooting, it's common for memories to become muddled.
Three police witnesses who took the stand before Beaule have recalled details that seem to support the theory that the murder was intentional.
Officer John Breckinridge, who witnessed the shooting, described Tuesday how Addison slowed his pace as Briggs approached him on foot, luring him so that Addison could shoot him from "within an arm's length."
Officer Stephen Reardon, who reached the scene just after the shooting, said that he saw Addison duck into a building recess and make a motion consistent with clearing the chamber of a jammed gun, as if he intended to shoot at officers a second time.
Officer Emmett Macken, who arrived in the police transport van with Beaule, said he saw Addison stop running away to turn and point his gun back toward officers surrounding Briggs.
"It's like an unmistakable gesture," Macken testified yesterday. "He raised his right arm, turned, and I just felt imminent fear for my own safety and the other officers on the scene."
Macken shot back but was unable to hit the gunman. He said it was the first time he had ever used his weapon in the line of duty.
Addison's defense team has tried to pick away at the credibility of the testimony. Lawyers began Tuesday with Breckinridge, who testified that Briggs had left his bicycle when he approached Addison on foot. Beaule said she saw Briggs straddling the bike, and both Reardon and Macken described how Briggs's legs were tangled in the bike after the shooting.
Reardon described how he shot at the hooded man, chased him down the alley and later worked as a SWAT member during the search for Addison. The same day, he visited Briggs in the hospital, sat for an interview with detectives and typed a police report of his observations. It was filed about 18 hours after Reardon first reported for work.
Yesterday, Rothstein examined the report and interview transcript and asked the officer why those documents never mentioned that Reardon had seen Addison ducking to the side and working his elbows.
"When you demonstrated that gesture, when you demonstrated that hopping back-and-forth motion, none of that was either in your report, nor did you tell it to the detectives?" Rothstein asked yesterday.
"I did the best I could in the condition that I was in at that stage," Reardon said, adding that the omission of the detail does not mean the memory is inauthentic.
Rothstein questioned Macken's recollection that he saw two men running away from the scene of the shooting. Macken told Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker that he knew that part of his memory must not be accurate, since he later learned that the second man, Bell-Rogers, had stopped when asked by Briggs and was arrested by Beaule later that night.
"Somebody told you that you were wrong about it, but in your report, in your interview, and in your deposition - and here today - you talked about what you thought you saw, which is the man in the red and the man in the gray," Rothstein said.
Macken testified that he stood 3 to 5 feet from Briggs's body as he fired several rounds at the fleeing Addison. But Rothstein showed Macken photographs of spent shell casings from his gun, found about 40 feet away.
"For them toup in a cluster roughly 40 feet behind you, directly behind you would not be consistent with your experience?" Rothstein asked.
"You're saying it wouldn't," Macken answered. "I don't know."
Beaule is likely to face a similar cross-examination when she returns to the stand today. She has testified that she heard two gunshots before Briggs fell, although prosecutors have said Briggs died from a single gunshot to the head.
Beaule did not say she saw Addison attempt to clear his gun or aim his weapon at the officers, but she did say that she might have seen Addison turn to look back.
"I just see his hood, and I see him running," she said at theof her testimony. "I have a vague recollection of him turning back at one point, but it's not real clear. I mostly remember him running."
Copyright 2008 Concord Monitor