BEAUMONT — James Cody Guedry, the Beaumont police officer whose pat-down search of Derrick Newman ended in Newman being struck 13 times with a baton and shocked twice by a Taser, denied mistreating the man during his first public account of those events.
Guedry, 28, is in the midst of his testimony in his trial for official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor. He is specifically accused of wrongfully using a Taser twice against Newman, as well as wrongfully detaining and arresting him, following a routine traffic stop on Aug. 24, 2007.
A since-resigned officer, David Todd Burke, was convicted by a Bexar County jury in September, for wrongfully using his police baton to repeatedly strike Newman during a struggle while being patted down by Guedry. [For more background on the case and a link to a video of the incident, click here.]
Called as the last witness by defense attorney Mitch Adams, Guedry, who at the time was a rookie only a few weeks as a trainee patrol officer, told the jury that his use of his department-issued Taser against Newman was the first time he’d ever had to use force on the job.
Guedry testified that he and his field training officer, Charles Duchamp III, responded to what they first heard as an officer involved struggle over their car radio and then a dispatch call for officer backup.
“I’d never heard an ‘officer needs assistance,’ before” Guedry told the six-person jury in a soft, polite voice.
When he and Duchamp arrived at the scene, they ran up to see two other officers struggling with a combative Mario Cole, another passenger in the car being arrested on an outstanding warrant, and two other “subjects” — Newman and Willie Cole, the car’s driver, standing in the open doorways of their vehicle.
Guedry testified this immediately raised his concern, thinking the two men might also become combative with officers and could possibly have access to weapons inside the car. He said he moved toward Newman, with his Taser already at the ready as Duchamp had previously ordered.
But Guedry denied that the pointed the stun weapon directly at Newman; instead, he said, he merely used it as a “pointer” to indicate that he wanted the other man to go to the rear of the car. He said he asked Newman if he had any weapons on him.
Newman replied, “No, but you can check,” the officer told the jury.
As Guedry (after holstering his Taser) began to search the waistband of Newman’s baggy shorts, he testified, he felt Newman’s hand grab his right wrist and pull it toward his crotch. He said Newman said, “Get you some of this.” (In his own testimony Tuesday, Newman denied grabbing the officer’s hand but admitted making a course remark.)
“I didn’t know what he was doing. I told him, “Let it go, Let it go,” Guedry said.
Guedry testified that he immediately tried to free his hand by pulling back, while using his left hand to shove Newman onto the back of the car trunk in order to gain the advantage. He said that as the struggle escalated, his Taser was knocked to the ground. It wasn’t until he bent down to pick it up and then raised up again that he became aware that Burke was beside him using his baton to strike Newman.
He said he kept saying “Stop resisting, stop resisting,” to Newman, to no avail. When another officer, Jason Torres, told him to “Tase him, Tase him,” he did just that. Even after Newman fell to the ground, he continued to resist being handcuffed, he said, until he used the Taser again at Torres’ command.
Touching on previous testimony based on the videotape, Guedry said he “gently” placed his foot on Newman’s back while the other man was lying handcuffed on the street in order to prevent him from rolling over and further injuring himself with the Taser barbs still sticking into his back.
After Adams finished his direct examination of Guedry, state District Judge John B. Stevens Jr. called for a lunch break. Prosecutors will begin their cross-examination at 1:30 p.m.
UPDATE: After an intense cross-examination of Guedry by Assistant Criminal District Attorney Ed Shettle, both sides rested their cases at 2:30 p.m. The lawyers are meeting with Judge Stevens to prepare the jury charge.
Shettle began his cross-examination by asking Guedry whether he remembered using his Taser again just five days after the Newman incident — this time against a 13-year-old girl following an overdose suicide attempt. Guedry replied he didn’t have a clear recollection of the event.
Shettle turned to a remark heard on the videotape, in which Duchamp, Guedry’s training officer, told him after Newman was Tased that “I told you I’d get you a Tase before you left me.” Guedry replied that he thought at the time that Duchamp’s statement was “unprofessional.”
“That’s why I didn’t reply to it,” Guedry told Shettle. But the prosecutor pressed him on whether he and Duchamp had ever discussed the possibility of finding an opportunity for the younger officer to use his Taser. Guedry said he couldn’t recall any such discussion.
Shettle pressed Guedry on his testimony under direct examination that he had commanded Guedry to “Stop resisting” and other commands before using the Taser against Newman.
“You can’t hear that on the videotape, can you?” Shettle demanded. Guedry replied he didn’t know why those comments couldn’t be heard, other than that there was a lot of shouting at the time.
Shettle also called into question Guedry’s assertion that he never pointed the Taser directly at Newman before asking to search him.
“What if he’d said ‘no?’ What would have done then?” Shettle asked. Guedry replied that he didn’t know.
During redirect examination, Adams, the defense attorney, asked Guedry about the so-called “wheel of force” policy regarding use-of-force. Guedry replied that the policy, which has been adopted by the Beaumont Police Department, states that an officer can use whichever tool he feels necessary at any given point rather than use a stepped elevation approach.
Find links to full coverage of the Guedry and Burke trials here.
Copyright © 2010 Ken Fountain. All rights reserved.