Clark County sheriff’s Deputy Rob Ternus was standing in front of his hijacked patrol car, parked alongside Northeast 78th Street, shouting for the suspect inside to surrender.
The man didn’t. Instead, he locked eyes with the deputy, changed gears and accelerated straight toward him.
“That’s when I knew I had a bigger problem,” Ternus testified Tuesday.
At that point, the five-year deputy said he decided to use force.
He jumped to the sidewalk and fired one shot through the window of the patrol car as it whizzed past.
Ternus was the first witness in the trial in Clark County Superior Court of Raymond H. Hall, 30, charged with first-degree assault of the deputy.
During several hours of testimony, Ternus was candid and detailed about what happened the early morning of Dec. 26, when he pulled over a pickup on Northeast 78th Street for having defective brake lights.
Ternus asked Hall, a passenger in the pickup, to step out and talk with him. He said Hall ran away, circling the block while ignoring the deputy’s repeated commands to surrender, and then jumped into the deputy’s patrol car and sped away.
“Can you explain to jurors your concern?” about Hall being in the patrol car, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Alan Harvey asked.
“My concern was my rifle,” Ternus said.
Ternus said that Hall could have gotten the deputy’s rifle from the patrol car. “If I get into a gunfight with a rifle, I’m in a losing battle,” the deputy said.
After dashing out of the way, Ternus said the car came within a foot of hitting him.
When asked by the prosecution what he did immediately following the shooting, Ternus started crying.
He said he went to check and see if the driver of the pickup was OK, expressing shock. “I asked him, ‘What the hell is this guy is doing?,’ ” Ternus said. “Why’s he doing all this stuff?”
Once Hall fled west on 78th Street, Ternus said, he waited for other deputies to arrive before continuing the investigation.
Deputies received Hall’s name from the driver and found the patrol car abandoned several miles from the scene, Ternus said.
Harvey said in his opening statement that Hall was found hours later, trying to hail a cab out of town. Hall told a police officer, “I’m Raymond Hall. I’m the one you’re looking for,” Harvey said. Hall had an injury on his back from being grazed by the bullet.
Harvey said Hall made a deliberate choice to try to assault Ternus, and the weapon was an “automobile that weighs thousands of pounds.”
This justified the shooting, the deputy prosecutor said.
“He was terrified,” Harvey said. “He was absolutely certain he was going to die.”
But in his opening statement, Jeff Sowder questioned whether the deputy had reasonable fear to fire his gun, considering he first chased Hall and then stood in front of the patrol car. To convict Hall of assault, jurors would also have to determine the deputy was reasonable in shooting his gun, Sowder said.
A review of whether Ternus’ shooting was justified is pending at the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office.
The defense attorney also questioned why the prosecution was charging his client with theft of a firearm and felon in possession of a firearm charges just because there was a rifle in the car.
“How can you possess something you accidentally found?,” Sowder said.
The trial in Superior Court Judge John Wulle’s courtroom is expect to conclude today or Thursday.
Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or firstname.lastname@example.org.