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Bartlett says he can't recall number of shots he fired
By MEG JONES
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
MILWAUKEE, Wis. — Former Milwaukee Police Officer Jon Bartlett fired 10 bullets through a Lincoln Town Car windshield four years ago because he thought a motorist was trying to run him over and kill him, he testified Monday.
Bartlett, 34, spent almost four hours on the witness stand as the federal civil trial stretched into a second week. He calmly answered questions from the lawyer hired by the family of Larry Jenkins, 31, who was shot to death by Bartlett on a Milwaukee street in 2002.
Jenkins' family contends Bartlett used unnecessary force when he shot Jenkins, hitting him seven times.
But Bartlett said that he thought Jenkins was trying to kill him when he saw Jenkins behind the wheel of the car accelerating toward him. Bartlett said he was hit in the thighs by the front of the car and began firing his service weapon as he fell forward across the hood, the gunshots making a spiderweb pattern across the windshield.
"I started shooting when the car made contact with my legs," said Bartlett, who later admitted he did not know how many times he fired.
Willie Nunnery, Jenkins' family's attorney, questioned how the officer could not know how many rounds he shot.
"For you to say you did not know how many times you fired your gun - were you out of control?" asked Nunnery.
"Not at all," replied Bartlett, noting that it's common for officers not to know how many bullets they fire in this type of a shooting. "You revert back to your training."
Bartlett was fired from the Police Department after he and two other officers were charged in the Frank Jude Jr. beating. In a highly publicized trial last month, he was acquitted of one of two charges; the jury deadlocked on the second charge.
He was not charged in connection with Jenkins' death.
Jenkins was a passenger in a car stopped in September 2002 for traffic violations. He ran from police and got into another car that turned out to be driven by a family friend.
Bartlett testified he saw Jenkins pull a passenger out of the car "like a sack of potatoes" and a short time later saw Jenkins behind the wheel. Then he saw Jenkins drive the car toward him, his body pressing back into the driver's seat as he accelerated, said Bartlett.
Bartlett's testimony Monday differed significantly from the recollections of two other people who were originally inside the car where Jenkins was killed. Benita Hughlett, the owner of that car, testified last week that she let Jenkins inside her car, but she decided to bail when she saw Bartlett running toward the car holding his gun. She said Jenkins wasn't in the driver's seat but was crouching down in the passenger's seat.
Bartlett yelled for Jenkins to stop, but the former officer said Jenkins kept driving toward him.
"I was still giving him commands to stop, and when that car started moving I believed he was trying to attack me," said Bartlett.
Bartlett said Jenkins was facing him as he fired his gun through the windshield. But Nunnery displayed to the jury an autopsy photo that showed at least one bullet entered the right side of Jenkins' throat and exited out the left side.
Nunnery also tried to point out inconsistencies in Bartlett's words. During a Police Department internal investigation, Bartlett said he pulled out his gun when he saw Jenkins get behind the wheel, and on Monday he said he drew his weapon when he saw Jenkins pull a passenger out of the car.
"Those two events are probably less than one second apart," Bartlett said in response to Nunnery's questions.
As he opened the driver's side door and leaned in to check Jenkins, who was sitting in the driver's seat, Bartlett said he could see immediately that Jenkins was severely wounded. Hit by seven bullets, Jenkins died at the scene.
At the same time a crowd Bartlett estimated at 50 to 100 people converged at the scene near N. 37th St. and W. Glendale Ave. and began to jump on him. Nunnery said he would probably wrap up his part of the case today.
Former Wisconsin officer testifies in civil lawsuit