Trial of man accused of killing Charleston police officer enters second day

Trial of man accused of killing Charleston Police Officer enters second day
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 11:29 AM EDT
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KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - As the trial against the man accused of shooting and killing a Charleston police officer entered its second day, law enforcement who responded to the deadly scene approached the witness stand Tuesday.

Joshua Phillips, 38, of Charleston, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Charleston Patrolman Cassie Johnson. Officer Johnson was shot on December 1, 2020, while responding to a traffic complaint.

Trial for man accused of killing Charleston police officer will stay in Kanawha County

Day two of the trial began with the jury hearing from responding officers and viewing police issued body cam footage from Dec. 1 during Phillips’ arrest.

In the video, officers could be heard giving the defendant commands to get out of the vehicle with his hands up.

While on the stand Tuesday, Charleston Police Officer Brandon Rinehart testified that Phillips did not comply with commands from law enforcement to exit the vehicle, instead revving the vehicle’s engine at one point.

During questioning, the officer told the court officers on scene had to pull Phillips from the vehicle with guns drawn. Officer Rinehart said Phillips went down to the ground, but with his hands underneath his body.

Due to the fact that Phillips’ hands were not visible, Officer Reinhart testified officers hit and kicked him several times before he complied with commands.

In response to the defense’s line of questioning regarding law enforcement’s choice to put Phillip’s on the ground during his arrest, Officer Rinehart said, “Typically when you have such non compliance, you would place someone on the ground because you have better control of them and at that point we had no compliance. It would be my understanding that they placed him on the ground to ensure they had full control.”

Two other police officers were called to the stand Tuesday following Officer Rinehart’s testimony.

Officer Brett Foster’s testimony concurred with Officer Reinhart’s. Officer Foster told the court at the time of his arrest, Phillips never complied with commands and law enforcement did not have a visual on the defendant’s hands.

A police officer from Ohio who was working in Charleston as a detective for CPD at the time of Officer Johnson’s death and Phillips’ arrest was also called to the stand. Joshua McMaster told the court when he arrived on scene December 1 he saw several officers trying to arrest a ‘subject’ and was approached by Patrolman Foster who had a stainless steel firearm in his hand. McMaster says he asked Patrolman Foster to put the firearm down.

“At that time, I stood by the firearm, believing I was going to have to collect it at another time,” said McMaster.

The firearm was soon after collected as evidence, McMaster testified. McMaster says the weapon was eventually turned over to the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office’s evidence collection.

During the trial, a box, containing a bag was presented to McMaster on the stand. He then confirmed for the jury that inside was the same gun he collected the day of the deadly shooting.

When testimony resumed after a lunch break, jurors heard more testimony including from witness Marshall Sharp who said he heard commotion from outside a house, including a woman officer yelling and six to eight gunshots. He said he also heard a car driving off, especially the sound of squealing tires.

Later, Richard Chapman took the stand. Both Chapman and Sharp testified they had been mutually involved in a drug deal, with Sharp taking a plea deal that required him to testify in the trial. Chapman said Josh Phillips had come to the house to buy pills. Just minutes after Phillips left the home, Chapman testified that he heard gunshots. He said he initially lied to police but later told the truth.

Chapman testified that he had known Phillips for about two years and knew he used drugs.

“I was really worried about the lady getting shot; I was an addict,” Chapman testified.

Later, the state indicated it wanted to show pictures from Officer Johnson’s body camera as evidence.

In other testimony Tuesday afternoon, CPD Detective Christopher Lioi told the courtroom that he heard during scanner transmission from Metro 911 that an officer had been shot. Lioi later reviewed dash camera footage, as well as what the body camera had recorded.

Officer Johnson could be heard telling Phillips that he needed to move a vehicle. Johnson first knocks on the door of a white house. Those in the courtroom could see her talking to Phillips, telling him to move the vehicle. She then walks back over to Josh Phillips in the car. The two have a conversation about where he parked.

Johnson then pulls out her cuffs and tries to cuff Phillips. He yells that she’s trying to shoot him. He says he can’t go on the ground. Phillips is yelling at Johnson to “stop it now.” The audio then cuts out, and a few seconds later Johnson falls to the ground.

Testimony wrapped up late Tuesday afternoon, with the trial set to resume Wednesday morning.

Phillips has been behind bars awaiting trial since December 26, 2020.

After being delayed due to an inadequate jury pool, Monday a jury was seated, a venue selected and opening statements began in the trial against Joshua Phillips.

The trial began Monday with opening statements and emotional testimonies from emergency officials and eyewitnesses.

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