Rob Modic Dayton Daily News February 28, 2001, Wednesday, City Edition Copyright 2001 Dayton Newspapers, Inc. Dayton Daily News February 28, 2001, Wednesday, City Edition
(DAYTON, OH) -- A defense attorney claimed Tuesday that Dayton Police Officer Michael Robinson fired the first shot that led to a brief and nearly fatal exchange of gunfire in a pubic housing apartment.
Robinson, Officer Michael August and Alonzo Freeman Jr. were wounded in the July 7, 1999, shootout at 352 Chicahominy Ave.
Freeman, now 20, is charged with two counts of attempted murder. His attorney, Mia Spells, told the jury of seven women and four men, including one black man, that Freeman shot the officers in self-defense.
August, who was 41, was struck in the chest with a blast from Freeman's 9 mm rifle. A bulletproof vest saved his life. Robinson, who was 26 and also in a vest, was wounded in four places, and Freeman, 19 at the time of the shooting, survived five wounds, including two to the chest. Only Robinson returned fire, Assistant Montgomery County Prosecutor John Slavens said.
On July 7, 1999, as Dayton police took positions around the two-story apartment, Spells said, August threatened to shoot those inside. At a previous hearing, five witnesses testified they heard different officers make the threat. Every officer at the hearing denied hearing anything like that.
Slavens told the jury Dayton police just wanted to arrest trespassing suspect Christopher Nesby, 21, who had hopped from his bicycle and fled into Freeman's home from August, a bicycle patrol officer, and his supervisor, Sgt. Robert A. Jackson. Trespassing, a low-level misdemeanor, has a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail.
August radioed that he was in a brief foot chase. That call brought Robinson and another patrolman to the housing complex. It also attracted a special task force led by now-retired Lt. Charles Gift. The task force included two detectives and a U.S. marshal who were in the 11th hour of their workday with Gift serving felony warrants.
Moments after August and Jackson chased Nesby into the apartment, the task force arrived in plain clothes, and, following its routine procedure, donned body armor and pulled out an assault rifle and a shotgun, witnesses said Tuesday.
After discussions with police, Debra Nesby opened the door, taking Freeman's girlfriend and two younger children with her outside. August, Robinson, Jackson and Detective Stephen Tobias entered the apartment and immediately arrested Nesby at the bottom of some stairs.
August, followed by Robinson and Taylor, ascended the stairs and began pushing open the bedroom door as Freeman pushed back.
Slavens said as the door opened, Freeman fired first, striking August in the chest, then fired and wounded Robinson as the fight moved through the bedroom doorway and into the narrow hallway where Freeman collapsed from his wounds.
Spells, in her opening statement, said Freeman will testify he was holding a rifle taken from Nesby. Nesby had pulled it from an upstairs bedroom in a fit of anger as police surrounded the apartment, she said. As the officers pushed open the door, she said, Freeman fell backwards a few steps, holding the rifle across his chest as the two officers entered. Spells said Robinson, his gun drawn, fired the first shot. She said Freeman, who was first wounded in his side, fired back.