A Durham police investigator said he felt “just the worst pain I had ever felt in my life,” as he struggled with the man accused of shooting him during a traffic stop on a cold December morning three years ago.
Kelly A. Stewart continued testifying Tuesday on the second day of the trial of Carlos Antonio Riley, 24. Prosecutors say Riley took Stewart’s badge and gun, shot him in the right thigh and drove off. The defense says Stewart didn’t follow procedure, that Riley feared for his life and that Stewart pulled the trigger during a struggle.
Stewart said he stopped Riley after watching him speaking to a black male in a known drug area and driving off, with his red, two-door car “fishtailing” down Forest Road, which runs through Forest Pointe Apartments.
After Stewart pulled Riley over around 10:20 a.m. on Dec. 18, 2012, he testified, Riley began to drive away. Stewart said he then jumped into the car and pulled the emergency brake.
The two struggled, Stewart testified, and the plainclothes officer pulled his .45-caliber Smith and Wesson handgun from his holster and held the gun with both hands but no fingers on the trigger.
“I told him to get back, or I’ll shoot you,” Stewart said. “That’s when he lunged for the firearm. He grabbed the firearm.”
As they struggled, Stewart said, the gun discharged, hitting Stewart in his right thigh.
“I instantly felt the pain,” Stewart, 29, said. “I mean it was just the worst pain I had ever felt in my life.”
They continued to struggle, Stewart said, as Riley ejected the magazine and a live round from the gun.
Riley then pulled Stewart from the car, Stewart said, and dropped him in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
Riley was still holding the gun as he sped off, Stewart said.
During cross examination, defense attorney Alex Charns asked Stewart whether he told Riley after he pulled him over that he smelled marijuana and wanted to search his car.
“I can’t recall if I did or I didn’t,” Stewart said.
Then Charns noted that Stewart didn’t call the traffic stop into the police department’s communications, but wrote Riley’s tag number on a piece of paper.
“If you search and don’t find anything, then you never call it in, right?” Charns said.
“No,” Stewart said.
“Because that’s what this was about, you were off the books?” Charns said.
“No,” Stewart said.
Charns noted that more than 76 percent of Stewart’s traffic stops were African American males, and that in one of his previous statements Stewart, who is black, had indicated Riley was out of the car when he had the gun. Charns asked why the officer said “get back or I am going to shoot you” instead of “get off” if Riley was on top of him.
Stewart repeated that he was on his back in the passenger side of car, and Riley was on top of him.
Charns also asked how many times he hit Riley, who had facial injuries after the incident, and how many times Riley hit Stewart, who didn’t appear to have any facial bruises, Charns said.
“I am not counting how many times I am being punched,” Stewart said. “I am fighting for my life.”
Some Durham residents have said the Riley case is an example of racial profiling, police abuse and illegal searches. About a dozen community members from various organizations have been sitting a couple of benches behind Riley to support him during the trial.
The charges against him include robbery with a dangerous weapon, assault on a law enforcement officer inflicting serious injury, assault on a law enforcement officer with a vehicle and assault on a law enforcement officer with a gun.
Riley, who is being held at the Durham County jail as a federal prisoner, pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a felon in federal court in February 2014 and was sentenced to 10 years.