MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A man on parole feared being caught with a handgun when he shot to death a police officer trying to question him following a hit-and-run, and then escaped by killing a second man during a carjacking near Belmont Park racetrack on Long Island, a prosecutor said Monday.
During opening statements in a courtroom packed with police officers and relatives of the victims, Nassau County Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Benson detailed the trail of carnage allegedly left by the suspect, Darrell Fuller, a 34-year-old ex-convict from Queens.
Fuller has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, robbery and weapons charges stemming from the 2012 killing of Nassau County Police Officer Arthur Lopez and carjacking victim Raymond Facey.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, heavily armed officers escorted Fuller into the courtroom, which was filled with police. Seats reserved for the suspect’s family were empty.
Fuller, who sat stoically at the defense table in a dark suit, faces a sentence of life without parole if convicted of the murder charges. His court-appointed attorney, Kenneth St. Bernard, asked jurors during a brief opening statement to be skeptical of the prosecution case.
Benson said Lopez’s partner and at least six witnesses would testify to seeing Fuller kill the police officer and then shoot Facey to death during a carjacking moments later. “Civilians saw this horror unfold in front of them,” Benson said.
He said Lopez and his partner, Clarence Hudson, were patrolling near the Nassau-Queens counties border when they saw a car driven by Fuller collide with a van. Fuller allegedly drove away and the officers pursued him as he entered the Cross Island Parkway, headed south.
The officers followed as Fuller left the highway at the next exit, apparently driving with at least one flat tire. Fuller was out of his vehicle, Benson said, when Lopez approached him armed with a Taser. The prosecutor said the officer got within about 5 feet of Fuller when he opened fire.
Benson said Lopez could have taken his pistol from his holster, but did not.
“For his humanity and his restraint — Darrell Fuller paid him back with a bullet to his heart,” Benson said.
The start of the trial was delayed Monday morning after a failed attempt by Fuller’s attorney to move the trial because of publicity surrounding the case.
“This is more delay tactics and more agonizing for the familiy and friends of Artie and Mr. Facey,” Nassau County Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President James Carver told Gusoff.
“The manly thing to do is just plead guilty,” Carver added. “Let’s get this all over with and spend the rest of your life in jail, where you belong and let you rot there.”
The judge asked sobbing family members to refrain from crying in the courtroom, saying, “No one wants to try this case more than one time.”
Police said Fuller was arrested hours after Lopez and Facey were killed. Benson said Fuller first fled to a nearby day care center, where he called a friend to pick him up. That friend later shot Fuller in the arm and leg in an attempt to make it appear that Fuller had been a victim of the carnage, Benson said.
The friend, Gerald Williams, has pleaded not guilty to the charges in Queens and is awaiting trial, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney’s office said.
Fuller served four years in prison after pleading guilty to attempted murder in 2005, authorities said. He was jailed again in 2010 after violating his parole on a drug arrest and was released in 2011, prosecutors said.
Facey’s widow, Juniepa Facey, said she had no anger toward Fuller but that she didn’t know why.
“We have nothing but grief, hurt,” she said. “And every day’s getting harder for me living alone in my house all by myself because he choose to take my husband from me.”
Lopez’s sister will be the first witness to take the stand, Gusoff reported.
The trial is expected to last month because it is being held just three days a week because Fuller is on kidney dialysis.
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