After viewing the bullet holes left in Jamaine Hill's front door, jurors in Lucas County Common Pleas Court learned Monday it will be their job to decide whether Hill knew it was the police he was shooting at Nov. 16.
Dexter Phillips, an assistant county prosecutor, told the jury in his opening statement that Hill fired five rounds from a 9mm pistol at the six members of the Toledo police SWAT team on or near his porch after they breached Hill's door just after 2 a.m.
“The rounds fired by the defendant just missed Officer [Richard] Kovacs at the front door,” he said. “However, Toledo police Det. Jason Picking was outside the front of the house, by the street. One of the rounds fired by the defendant passed through the open doorway, struck Det. Jason Picking directly in the face.”
Hill, 39, of the 4100 block of Caroline Avenue is charged with seven counts of felonious assault, each with gun specifications, and one count of having a weapon while under disability for the incident outside his North Toledo home.
While Mr. Phillips said the evidence will show that Hill knew it was the police at his door, defense attorney John Thebes painted a different picture for the jury.
Mr. Thebes said Hill and his wife had fallen asleep in the living room while watching TV that night, that Hill was taking the prescription painkiller oxycodone following a recent surgical procedure, and was awakened suddenly by the sound of the window above him shattering from the “knee knockers” fired through it by police.
“Shards of glass fall on his head and his body. His wife begins to scream,” Mr. Thebes said. “Knee knocker devices — wooden devices — are flying all over the living room, having their intended effect of diverting them from the front door.”
He said Hill heard rumbling on the porch, saw the door knob twisting, “and at that moment he made the decision to take a gun that he had nearby and fire it. He fired at the door — not at the police, but at the intruder coming in through the door. As soon — as soon — as he realized it was the police, with many, many bullets left in the cartridge, he put the gun down.”
Mr. Phillips said the injuries to Detective Picking would not have occurred if Hill — who is prohibited from having a firearm because of a prior felony conviction — did not have a gun that night.
“Make no mistake about it: This defendant is sitting in front of you today because he knowingly opened fire on police, attempting to shoot Officer Kovacs in the doorway, and in doing so placed five other officers at risk of serious physical injury and caused devastating physical injuries to Det. Jason Picking,” Mr. Phillips said.
The SWAT team, both sides concurred, was executing a lawful no-knock search warrant that night.
The state's first witness, Sgt. William Shaner, told the jury no-knock warrants allow police to make a quicker, safer, and more dynamic entry in potentially dangerous situations.
Still, Sergeant Shaner testified, the team leader calls out “Police. Search warrant” in the moment before the door is rammed.
The trial is to resume at 9:15 a.m. Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge James Bates.
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