A trial began Friday for a bicyclist who is accused of being high on drugs and trying to kill a rookie Fresno police officer in October 2014.
Patrick Lee Hall, 36, is charged in Fresno County Superior Court with the attempted murder of police Officer Christopher Reddy, assault with a firearm, possession of a gun by a felon and being in possession of methamphetamine while armed. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
In opening statements , prosecutor Ron Wells and defense attorney Scott Baly agree on much of the evidence.
Baly told the jury that Hall was high on methamphetamine and held a semiautomatic handgun that discharged in a struggle with Reddy while the officer held the barrel of the gun. Reddy was not struck by the bullet, but suffered severe powder burns on his hand, Chief Jerry Dyer said at the time of the incident.
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In the struggle, Hall also was shot, wounded in the abdomen, Baly said.
What is in dispute in the trial is whether Hall fired his gun intentionally at Reddy or the gun discharged accidentally.
“He’s not guilty of attempted murder,” Baly said, conceding Hall is guilty of the other charges.
In fact, Baly said, Hall told police detectives after the shooting: “I wasn’t trying to kill no police officer.”
I wasn’t trying to kill no police officer.
Patrick Lee Hall, 36, told detectives
The trial in Judge Arlan Harrell’s courtroom is expected to take a week.
The incident happened around 2 a.m. Oct. 20, 2014, near downtown Fresno.
Baly said Hall was homeless and riding a bicycle near Divisadero Street and Blackstone Avenue when Reddy and his partner, Officer Jordan Wamhoff, tried to pull Hall over for riding without a bicycle light. Reddy had been on the police force only six months; Wamhoff had 10 months experience as a patrol officer, Baly said.
Once the officers activated the patrol car’s emergency lights, Hall rode his bicycle on Divisadero until the two officers caught up with him in a carport between Abby and Effie streets.
Baly said a key issue is whether police initiated the violent confrontation. Though police had reason to pull over Hall, Baly told the jury, the evidence suggests that the officers cut off Hall and used their patrol car to initiate contact with Hall’s bicycle, which the defense lawyer says is against department policy.
Once Hall stopped, the officers used a stun gun on Hall, but it didn’t work, Wells said. Hall then ran to an alley, where one or both officers used a police baton on Hall, hitting him in the back of the shoulder.
When Hall tried to climb a fence, Reddy pulled him down on the ground. Reddy and Hall then began to wrestle.
During the struggle, Wells said, Wamhoff heard Hall say: “I’ve got gun. I’m not going back to prison.”
Soon after, Hall’s gun discharged. The gunfire momentarily stunned Reddy. “He feels a tingling sensation and thinks he’s been shot,” Wells told the jury.
Reddy was able to fire off two rounds at Hall, striking him in the abdomen, Wells said..
Fresno defense attorney Scott Baly said a key issue is whether police initiated the violent confrontation.
Hall ran down the alley and jumped over a fence into the backyard of a home on Effie Street. He took off some clothing, hid his gun, and climbed back over the fence and returned to the alley, Wells said.
Hall ran from the alley to Illinois Street, where he was confronted by two more officers. The officers had to use a stun gun to subdue him, Wells said. With the help of a police dog named Kubo, officers found Hall’s semiautomatic firearm in the backyard of the home on Effie Street, Wells said.
Hall was taken to Community Regional Medical Center to be treated for the gunshot wound, which appeared to pass through his body. Three days later, he was booked into the Fresno County Jail, where he remains today.
After the shooting, Dyer held a news conference and said Hall is a career criminal. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 1998 for a home invasion robbery, another robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, court records say. In September 2014 he was arrested on suspicion of possessing an illegal weapon and had an outstanding warrant when he was shot a month later.
Dyer said Hall is a member of the Six Deuce Diamond Crip gang. His backpack, retrieved after the struggle, contained drug pipes and burglary tools. He also had methamphetamine in his pocket.
The police chief also praised Reddy, saying the officer held Hall’s gun in such a way that he jammed the weapon after Hall fired it.
“No doubt that’s why Hall didn’t continue shooting at the officers as he ran from them,” Dyer said, noting that when officers found Hall’s gun it had eight live rounds and one expended shell casing in the barrel.