By SCOTT DAUGHERTY
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A prosecutor yesterday said a Bowie man tried to "mow down" a county police officer last October during a traffic stop - missing him by only a few feet.
Assistant State's Attorney Anastasia Prigge said Cpl. Jason Parrotte feared for his life so much that he shot at 41-year-old Calvin Fitzgerald Johnson and his SUV four times.
"We cannot allow people to run officers over," she said yesterday during opening statements of the expected two-day jury trial.
Johnson is charged with first-degree assault, a felony that carries a penalty up to 25 years in prison.
But Assistant Public Defender William Davis, Johnson's attorney, said his client is only guilty of driving on a revoked license and trying to flee a traffic stop. He said Cpl. Parrotte overreacted and is now just trying to protect his job.
"He opened fire on an individual without justification," Mr. Davis said, arguing Cpl. Parrotte had plenty of opportunity to get out of the road.
The traffic stop in question occurred Oct. 15 in Severn.
Cpl. Parrotte, a four-year veteran of the department, stopped Johnson at 11:49 p.m. for speeding on Pine Cove Avenue near Town Center Boulevard. He estimated Johnson was driving 48 in the 30 mph zone, although he did not pace the SUV or capture the speed on radar.
The officer approached the SUV and asked Johnson for his license and registration, but Johnson didn't respond. Instead, he drove off, made a three-point turn, and drove straight at the officer.
"I thought the vehicle was going to drive over me and kill me," he said on the stand.
When the car was about 12 feet in front of him, he opened fire, he said. He ran left, firing a total of four shots from his department-issued .40-caliber SIG-Sauer, hitting the SUV twice and Johnson twice.
"I could have easily touched (the SUV)," Cpl. Parrotte said, saying the vehicle came within 5 feet of him.
After a short chase, another officer stopped Johnson's vehicle nearby. Johnson was then flown to the Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was treated before being sent to jail.
Two people got out of Johnson's SUV as he turned around.
Cpl. Parrotte said he heard one of them use an expletive and say he was not going to be involved with what Johnson was doing.
On cross examination, however, Mr. Davis noted that Cpl. Parrotte did not use such colorful language in his official statement. He contended Cpl. Parrotte was now trying to make the incident into something bigger than it was so he wouldn't get in trouble for shooting at the SUV.
Calling the officer a "bionic man," Mr. Davis questioned how Cpl. Parrotte dodged the SUV if Johnson was accelerating at him from only a few feet away.
Before the trial started yesterday, Johnson openly complained about Mr. Davis - who he unsuccessfully attempted to replace with a private attorney on Tuesday.
"I don't feel I am being treated fairly," Mr. Johnson said in a rambling and often incoherent statement.
Circuit Court Judge Paul G. Goetzke, however, dismissed his concerns.
"I don't find any merit in what you're saying in as far as I can understand it," he said.
This isn't Johnson's first time in trouble with the law. He served 11 years in prison for assault and battery with intent to maim. He was released on probation April 26, 2006 - six months before this incident.
He was then charged with second-degree assault on June 27, 2006.
Copyright 2007 Capital Gazette Communications, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
Md. prosecutor: Driver tried to run down officer