Prosecutors rest case against officer who shot unarmed man
An Oklahoma City police officer reacted "as if he were alone" when he shot and killed an unarmed suicidal man, a training officer testified at trial Wednesday.
The witness, Lt. Blake Webster, created the department's de-escalation training. He told jurors Sgt. Keith Sweeney reacted much differently than two other officers who had engaged Dustin Pigeon.
"A total opposite reaction," Webster said after viewing body camera footage. "As if he were alone."
One of the officers was pointing a less-lethal bean-bag shotgun at Pigeon, who was holding a can of lighter fluid and a disposable lighter and threatening to set himself on fire. The other officer never removed his weapon from its holster.
Sweeney forced the issue when he ran toward the officers and confronted Pigeon, the witness testified.
"He was screaming profanities," Webster said. "It almost appeared as if he's emotionally involved."
Sweeney, 34, is charged with second-degree murder. He faces 10 years to life in prison if convicted.Prosecutors allege the shooting was unreasonable and unjustified. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater and Assistant District Attorney Adam Kallsnick rested the state's case against Sweeney following Webster's testimony.
Sweeney fatally shot Pigeon, 29, about 2:30 a.m. Nov. 15, 2017, after the victim called 911 threatening suicide.
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Officers Troy Nitzky and Erik Howell were the first to respond to the courtyard of a housing complex in southwest Oklahoma City. Both were wearing body cameras.
They approached Pigeon and attempted to de-escalate the situation, asking him to put down the lighter fluid and lighter. A few seconds later, Sweeney, who was not wearing a body camera, approached Pigeon with his gun drawn yelling, "Drop it!"
The video played for jurors shows the flashlight attached to Sweeney's handgun shining on Pigeon. Sweeney then shouts, "I will (expletive) shoot you! Get on the ground!"
Pigeon lowers his hands to waist level and Nitzky fires one round from his bean bag shotgun, striking Pigeon in the left hip. About the same time, Sweeney fires five shots with his 9 mm handgun, striking Pigeon three times.
Sweeney then asked, "Is that a knife in his hand?" Howell responds, "It's lighter fluid. "Sweeney then tells Nitzky, "I didn't know you had a bean bag."
Nitzky and Howell previously testified that Pigeon didn't pose a threat.
Defense attorney Gary James called his first witness Wednesday, a forensic video analyst who intended to break down the officers' body camera footage "frame by frame."
Ed Baker, a former police officer, said body worn cameras can distort reality because the lens is designed to show "a wider field of view" and can affect depth perception.
James contends Sweeney didn't know whether Pigeon had a weapon and was unaware Nitzky was aiming a bean bag shotgun at the victim because the other two officers didn't share the information. The attorney has said his client made the proper decision based on the information he was given.