SAN BERNARDINO – A teenaged boy lay on the ground – unarmed – with his arms out to his sides when a police officer kicked him twice in the face, took a step back and opened fire, a witness testified Thursday.
Atusabai Taimalia told the jury he was sitting at a table on his back porch drinking coffee and smoking with his mother when he saw Terrell Markham run into a courtyard at the corner of N. Medical Center Drive and Temple Street and hide behind a bush.
About 40 feet behind Markham, who was then 16, came Officer Adam Affrunti, who was holding his service firearm in his right hand as he yelled for the teen to stop.
Taimalia said the officer threw Markham, grabbed the teen’s jacket, threw him on the ground and kicked him in the left side of the face.
“After the kick, I didn’t see (Markham) move anymore and I thought he was passed out,” Taimalia said, adding that he saw the teen’s eyes roll up from more than 50 feet away.
Taimalia, who spoke in court through a Samoan interpreter, was the first witness called by the defense in Markham’s criminal trial. The teen is charged with brandishing a firearm at a police officer, possessing stolen property and street terrorism.
Authorities say Markham ran from the officer, refused to comply with orders and was pulling a gun out of his back pocket when Affrunti shot him three times. Defense attorney Dale Kristopher Galipo has argued that Markham did not have a gun.
A .40-caliber H&K semi-automatic handgun stolen from a federal agent’s house was found at the scene.
During cross-examination, prosecutor Ronald Dean Webster asked Taimalia a series of detailed questions about exactly what the man could see from his porch, pointing out that an air conditioning unit attached to a nearby building could have partially blocked Taimalia’s view of the incident.
The man claimed he could see everything and tried to pinpoint on a diagram where Markham’s head and legs were as he lay on the ground.
Although it was clear that a language barrier caused some confusion throughout Taimalia’s testimony, he did contradict himself at least once.
He initially said that his wife was in the courtyard watching the couple’s 4-year-old son play at the time of the shooting. But Taimalia later insisted that she was inside the house sleeping when Markham was shot.
Whether or not a woman was present in the courtyard is important because Affrunti has said that a woman yelled, momentarily distracting him as he held Markham at gunpoint. When he looked back, the officer says the teen was pulling a gun out of his back pocket.
Galipo, the defense attorney, has implied that there was no woman and that Affrunti concocted a cover story out of fear of being disciplined for firing on Markham. It was Affrunti’s sixth officer-involved shooting in 16 months.
The prosecutor also tried to show a relationship between Taimalia and the defense, bringing up the fact that Taimalia did not appear in court after the District Attorney’s Office subpoenaed him but was there Thursday at the defense’s request.
Taimalia testified that he had come to court the day prosecutors requested, but sat in the back of the courtroom without telling anyone he was there.
Webster also elicited information that at least three of Markham’s friends or family members came up to Taimalia in the courtroom hall when the jury broke for lunch to shake his hand and say thank you.
Taimalia said on the stand that they simply thanked him for coming.
Testimony in the trial resumes Monday.
Filed under: Civil Liberties, Prison Industrial Complex | Tagged: Adam Affrunti, Atusabai Taimalia, Dale Kristopher Galipo, Ronald Dean Webster, San Bernardino Police Department, Terrell Markham, youth |