The New York Times

February 9, 2000

Diallo Witness Heard Cop Yell 'Gun'

By The Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -- A woman today testified she heard a policeman yell ``Gun!'' before he and three other officers shot an unarmed man to death in the vestibule of his home.

Schrrie Elliot, who watched from across the street as Amadou Diallo was shot, was the first eyewitness to testify in the murder trial of the four officers.

Her testimony that the police shouted about a weapon was meant to support the officers' contention they believed Diallo had pulled a gun. But, on cross-examination, Elliot also said the men continued to shoot after Diallo fell to the ground.

"They continued shooting while (Diallo) was down?'' prosecutor Donald Levin asked.

"Yes,'' Elliot replied, breaking into tears.

Elliot said she saw the officers shoot Diallo while she was walking home from the subway. She described the officers jumping out of the car with their guns drawn, forming a semi-circle around Diallo and opening fire.

Earlier, an Internal Affairs sergeant testified he interviewed about 100 people after Diallo was shot, but did not get signed or verbatim statements from any of them.

Sgt. Peter Shumacher was the first defense witness called by lawyers for Officers Kenneth Boss, 28, Sean Carroll, 36, Edward McMellon, 27, and Richard Murphy, 27.

The four men have pleaded innocent to murder. They said Diallo ignored orders to halt, then pulled out a black wallet that appeared to be a gun.

Prosecutor Eric Warner said evidence showed the four white officers fired 41 bullets at close range and without warning -- creating a ``wall of lead'' from which the unarmed black immigrant had no escape.

Defense lawyers called Shumacher to highlight what they believe are inconsistencies in the testimony of prosecution witnesses Debbie Rivera and Thomas Bell. Shumacher said he interviewed both witnesses.

Under cross examination, Shumacher admitted he inserted the phrase ``kept a watchful eye'' when he transcribed Bell's statement when the witness may have actually said ``I watched him.''

Shumacher, 34, also said he didn't take down verbatim statements made by Rivera or Bell, didn't allow either witness to read what he wrote and did not have them sign the notes to ensure that they were accurate.

When asked why not, Shumacher replied, ``It's just not done. It's never done.'' He said he did read the ``gist of the statement'' back to the witnesses to make sure their remarks were accurately reflected.

On Tuesday, defense attorneys asked Supreme Court Judge Joseph Teresi to dismiss the case on the grounds prosecutors did not prove the second-degree murder charges. The judge reserved decision on the motion today and allowed the trial to continue.

Prosecutors concluded their case Tuesday by having the medical examiner who autopsied Diallo detail the destructive path of the 19 bullets that hit him on Feb. 4, 1999.

Dr. Joseph Cohen testified that Diallo would have been paralyzed early in the shooting by a bullet that pierced his aorta and damaged his spinal cord. He said that bullet would have caused Diallo to collapse within two seconds.

Cohen theorized Diallo must have been flat on the ground when one bullet entered the bottom of his right shoe and two others tunneled up his legs.

On cross-examination, Cohen admitted he couldn't be certain which bullet hit Diallo first. He also conceded he made up to 20 revisions in his autopsy report.

The shooting sparked so much pretrial publicity and protest over police abuse of minorities that an appeals court moved it to Albany, where it is being televised.

If convicted, the officers face 25 years to life in prison.