By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
By New Times
All for no reason.
The other cop, Officer Brown, admitted this seemed odd.
"At that point, I'm trying to bring Mr. West down, since our initial contact I've never a chance to even explain why we were there, what we wanted, which was my intention. And I'm trying to back Mr. West down, to get him to calm down so that we can at least explain ourselves and find out who he is. At this point, we don't even know who Mr. West is."
When the paraplegic grabbed the cop's gun, Officer Roper hit him so hard he knocked West completely out of his wheelchair.
Sprawled upon the deck with his useless legs splayed out in front of him, West used his arms to pull himself back across the floor of the porch. Cussing the cops, he swore he'd get a gun from the trailer and kill them both.
According to Officer Roper's police report, once West crossed the trailer's threshold, the paraplegic reached to the left and right side of the entryway for a gun. The cops became alarmed after West's hands disappeared behind the door. Then, and only then, did the officers, guns drawn, step into the trailer and attempt to apprehend the unruly West. The struggle lasted several minutes, by all accounts, until finally Roper bent West's leg back over the cripple's head and twisted it. With his leg broken, the paraplegic was subdued and arrested.
That is the police version of what happened, though as an explanation it has its drawbacks.
When you look at Steve West sitting in his wheelchair, it is obvious that his legs are no more substantial than a pair of lifeless ocotillo branches. The cop's testimony that one of those paralyzed limbs, propped upon a railing, pinned former high school linebacker Ted Roper to the porch is astounding. Besides, there is no railing on the porch.
In fact, Steve West maintained that the confrontation did not occur on the porch at all, but rather inside his trailer; an unfortunate location, if true, for officers without a search warrant to find themselves. Unless, of course, West first went for the cop's gun out on the porch and then scuttled backward into the trailer loudly and belligerently announcing his intent to secure a second weapon and kill Roper and Brown, thereby legally justifying their "hot pursuit."
Which was it?
The physical evidence, once diagrammed within the courtroom, argued so favorably for West's version that the two officers changed their story. West could not possibly have searched to his left and then his right when he crossed the threshold. The layout of the trailer made that version of events highly unlikely. The closed screen door opened out to the porch. Behind the screen, a wooden door opened in to the trailer. In back of the wooden door, in the trailer's living room, a desk prevented the door from opening fully. West could not have negotiated these obstacles the way the police claimed he did.
When it became clear from the diagrams that the crippled West could not reach behind a door that did not fully open, the cops said that the paraplegic only reached into the open side of the entryway.
The police officers had more than the physical layout working against their alibi that they were first assaulted out on the porch.
When the two squad cars, the police, the Eagle Scout and the female victim all pulled up in front of Steve West's trailer, a crowd gathered to watch the excitement.
The police were unable to produce a single witness from that crowd who saw or heard the cripple go for the officer's gun or loudly announce that he intended to kill the two cops with his own pistol.
Nor did Anna Marie Wilson recall any gunplay. Instead, she said that West demanded a search warrant before he'd let the police in.
"They said they were coming in," testified Wilson in deposition. "He said, 'No, you are not.'"
Eagle Scout Hunter had applied for a position with the Bullhead City Police Department. His courtroom appearance forced him to give very awkward testimony, to say the least.
First, scout Hunter said he could not see what happened because he remained in the police car, which was parked away from the action.
West's attorney, Terry McGillicuddy, pointed out that the officers themselves had already revealed that their cars were directly in front of the trailer.
Then scout Hunter said his view was blocked by a wall.
McGillicuddy pointed out that the wall was only one foot tall.
Finally, scout Hunter testified that he had not seen what transpired because his attention was focused upon the crowd of neighbors that had assembled instead of on the arrest.
Even the judge felt moved to observe that watching the neighbors during an arrest was a unique decision for a future police cadet.
Patiently brought back to reality by McGillicuddy, scout Hunter conceded that he had not seen any gunplay, or threat of gunplay upon the trailer's porch.
Although Animal was not in the trailer, having left for parts unknown immediately after assaulting Wilson, his kid brother was. He testified that the cops barged into the trailer searching for Animal and that when West protested too vigorously, they busted the cripple.