NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The widow of the man gunned down in a carjacking at a New Jersey mall four years ago took the stand today.
Dustin Friedland was gunned down after doing some holiday shopping at The Mall at Short Hills back in December 2013.
CAUTION: STRONG LANGUAGE
A struggle ensued and Dustin was shot in the head.
As CBS2’s Jessica Layton reported, memories of Dec. 15, 2013 didn’t start out so painful. She and her husband spent the morning at home in Hoboken before a trip to the Short Hills Mall.
From the witness stand Wednesday, Friedland took deep breaths and wiped away tears recalling the walk out of the mall to their vehicle — then hearing the shots that shattered her life.
Friedland said she was sitting the vehicle when she heard her husband talking to some men outside. Friedland testified she thought her husband was making friends, and when she looked around, she saw him flanked by two men.
“I saw a struggle. This all happened within ten, 15 seconds. I saw the struggle. I saw the taller man who was behind the driver’s side door. I saw him put the gun to Dustin’s head. I heard bang bang,” Friedland testified. “And then the window shattered of the car. And then, like in slow motion it played out.”
Jamie Friedland testified she watched the gunman walk around the car. She testified that she wasn’t sure what to do: Whether she should try to hide or not.
“You don’t know what to do in those situations. It was so fast,” she said.
Jamie Friedland testified the man with the gun opened her car door, pointed a gun at her, and ordered her out of the car.
“I said ‘OK, OK, I’m going, I’m going, I’m going,'” she testified.
Once out of the car, the carjackers drove off and Jamie went to check on her husband.
“I just knew, I knew when I turned around, I knew what I was going to see,” she said. “I turned around and I saw Dustin laying there in a pool of blood and I ran over to him.”
“I leaned down, I was on the floor and I was covered in his blood and he was covered in his blood and I held my hand to his head and I am screaming, I was screaming ‘Stay with me, stay with me.’ You don’t even know what to do in situations like that.” Friedland testified. “I’m screaming ‘Stay with me, stay with me,’ and I look at his eyes and he’s looking at me and he’s gasping for breath and I couldn’t get my phone to work.”
“His eyes were following me, they were focused on me, he was blinking. He was gasping for breath. I know he heard me. I know he heard me,” she said.
There was surveillance video of a similar Range Rover being followed into the garage by a large SUV the days before Dustin’s murder. The SUV then seems to case the parking lot.
Basim Henry, 36, is the first of four men charged to stand trial. Henry allegedly acted as the getaway driver.
“Mr. Henry did not pull the trigger of that gun that killed Dustin Friedland,” Defense Attorney Michael Rubas said.
Authorities say Henry was on supervised release from a 2006 robbery conviction. He had been released from federal prison in 2012.
Kevin Roberts, Karif Ford and Hanif Thompson also face separate trials, meaning Dustin’s widow will likely have to testify three more times.
All four men have pleaded not guilty.
The call Jamie Friedland made to 911 revealed it may have been as long as 30 minutes for an ambulance to reach Dustin on the upper level because it was unable to fit underneath the parking deck’s ceiling.
“Yes this is an emergency. I’m at the Short Hills Mall parking lot. My husband has been shot. They called the ambulance a half hour ago, where is he?” she can be heard saying to an operator.
Friedland expressed exasperation on the stand when talking about the time it took emergency responders to get to her.
“He was literally bleeding out on the ground. They had to literally up the incline of the parking deck to get to him,” she said.
Friedland broke down after leaving the courtroom. Her heartbroken cries could be heard all over the courthouse. She will likely have to testify four different times, as each defendant is being tried separately.
Prosecutors say under New Jersey law, if you’re involved in a crime like carjacking and it ends with someone getting killed, you are guilty of murder — explaining why Henry is facing murder charges even if he didn’t fire the fatal shots.
The trial resumes Thursday morning.