James Gaines (Boston Herald Photo by Patrick Whittemore)
Flashing back on a stolen .45-caliber hand-cannon exploding inches from his face, a seasoned Boston cop broke down crying in a Boston courtroom last week as he relived for jurors the ironic words that nearly got his partner killed.
"I said to officer Flores, 'Call for backup,' " Patrolman Carlton Williamson, 41, a Marine Corps veteran and father of four boys, said Sept. 28, during riveting first-day testimony in the trial of accused would-be cop assassin James Gaines.
"I don't even have words to describe how I was feeling," he said between tears and vacant stares. "I thought I was in a bad dream."
Gaines, 24, apparently thought so, too, when he had to be dragged from the courtroom, screaming profanities at his defense attorney, John Taylor, who told jurors to find his client guilty of assault and weapon charges, but not attempted murder.
Gaines later apologized to Judge Barbara Rouse, explaining, "I'm just terrified."
Williamson and officer Zenaida Flores, 31, were following orders to talk to Gaines on the morning of Aug. 27, 2002, when they spotted the convicted dope pusher strolling through Chinatown.
But the cops soon found themselves with two-handed death grips on the 6-foot, 350-pound man, who allegedly warned, "You don't want to talk to me, dawg."
In a struggle partially captured on tape by surveillance cameras, Williamson grabbed hold of Gaines' left arm while his petite partner tried to wrench his right hand from his waistband.
As Williamson bent over to see what Gaines was grabbing at with his right hand, he told Flores to get help.
"She took her right hand and she began to reach up to key her shoulder mike," he said. "I heard two shots. The muzzle blasts cut across my face. I remember seeing the flashes of light."
Though briefly blinded and deafened by the shots, Williamson said, "I saw officer Flores falling off of (Gaines). I remember saying to myself, 'Oh, God.' She hit the ground flat on her face and he fired at her again. I thought she was dead."
He wasn't the only one. Flores had been shot three times.
"She wasn't moving," paramedic Jay Weaver testified. "My initial impression was she was dead."
Unable to find a pulse or any sign of blood pressure, Weaver said he tried asking Flores questions to keep her conscious, but her answer was always the same.
" 'I think I'm going to die.' That's all she was able to say," said Weaver.
Williamson, meanwhile, had begun exchanging gunfire with Gaines, even reloading his nine-shot service Glock as he pursued him through Chinatown until Gaines, who'd been shot in the arm, finally threw down his spent weapon on Kneeland Street.
"Everything was moving so slow," said Williamson, who miraculously was uninjured. "It was overwhelming."