BANGOR, Maine — The bullet that ripped through the chest of John “Bobby” Surles, the teenager gunned down on a city street a year ago, was shot by someone standing directly in front of him, the medical examiner who performed his autopsy testified Tuesday.
The gun used in the shooting was provided by Richard Carr, the father of Zachary Carr, 19, who is charged with intentional or knowing murder and adequate provocation manslaughter in connection to Surles’ death.
Dr. Marguerite DeWitt, who was the state’s deputy chief medical examiner last year and is now retired; the father of the accused; three officials from Bangor Police Department; and a firearms specialist from the Maine State Police crime laboratory testified Tuesday during the second day of Carr’s murder trial at the Penobscot Judicial Center.
Carr, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him, is accused of shooting Surles with a 9 mm handgun about 6 p.m. Jan. 27, 2010. Surles died 28 hours later. Carr was arrested Jan. 29, 2010, and has been held at Penobscot County Jail since then.
The state says Carr shot Surles in cold blood while he was attempting to get up off the ground during a street brawl, but the defense says he acted reasonably in response to heated confrontations between two groups of young men that escalated to the breaking point.
An eyewitness testified Monday that he saw a street fight occurring outside 62 Cumberland St. on Jan. 27 involving a dozen or so young men, and that Surles was on the ground when shot.
The testimony of DeWitt contradicted that eyewitness account.
DeWitt testified that she believes the shooter and the victim were standing, facing each other, because the gunshot that mortally wounded Surles “pretty much went straight through.”
She described the bullet’s trajectory, saying it entered Surles’ body just above the right nipple, ripped through parts of his right lung and lodged itself in his back, just under the skin.
“We know the bullet entered almost perfectly perpendicular,” she said, adding it went slightly downward after entry.
DeWitt said the front impact point and the location on his back where the bullet was found were both about 18 inches from the top of Surles’ head.
The medical examiner also testified that the bullet abrasion collar, the area around the skin that gets damaged when a bullet enters skin, was concentric, or “even all the way around the hole.”
Based on those two facts, DeWitt said, “My first best opinion was the two individuals were facing each other and the gun was roughly at chest level.”
During direct examination, DeWitt told Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who is prosecuting the case, that other scenarios were possible, including one described by an eyewitness on Monday who testified that Surles was on the ground attempting to get up when he was shot.
Defense attorney F. David Walker IV asked DeWitt whether the bullet abrasion collar would be different if the victim had been on the ground and the shooter was a short distance away. She answered that it would probably result in an elliptical, or angled, abrasion collar.
He also asked if it was her opinion that the victim and the shooter were standing.
“Yes. It seems that way since the bullet is at mid-chest height,” DeWitt testified.
Walker’s last question to DeWitt had nothing to do with Surles’ injuries. He wanted to know if being beaten with a pool cue in the head could result in bodily injury, including death.
“It could,” she said.
In his opening statement on Monday, defense attorney Thomas Matzilevich said Surles arrived at the street fight that preceded the shooting with a red mop handle and fighting gloves. A witness to the fight who testified Monday said he believed the mop handle was a pool cue.
When Benson called Carr’s father to the stand, he asked him why he gave the 9 mm handgun to his son.
“He had been telling me for a long time about his girlfriend being stalked,” Richard Carr testified, adding later she also was being harassed on Internet-based social networking site MySpace.
The elder Carr purchased the gun in late December 2009 for his son, he testified, but didn’t give it to him until the day of the shooting. Richard Carr said he met his son in the parking lot of Dave’s Movie Center and Romantic Supermart on Hammond Street between 3 and 4:30 p.m. Jan. 27 and, after splitting a sandwich with him, he gave him the weapon and “about five” rounds of red-tipped ammunition.
Bangor police Officer Ed Mercier, who investigated a bat-throwing incident at the same location in the hours before the shooting; Detective Larry Ellis, an evidence specialist who documented evidence found at the scene after the shooting; and Sgt. Brad Johnston, who found the gun hidden behind a refrigerator in the apartment where Carr was staying, also testified on Tuesday.
Mercier said he was dispatched to Cumberland Street at around 4:45 to deal with a disorderly complaint involving a group of young people throwing a bat at a passing car.
Zachary Carr answered the door for Mercier.
“He began to tell me about a fight” that had happened earlier in the day “and I kind of interrupted him and I said, ‘That’s enough. This is where this is going to stop,’” the officer testified.
Mercier gave Carr a disorderly conduct warning, told him to call police if there were any problems, and left, removing a brick, bat and a hammer found at the end of the driveway “so they wouldn’t be a factor,” he said.
He was called back to the scene just over an hour later in response to the report of a shooting. Tim Greenlaw, who lives across the street from where Carr lived, pointed out to Mercier the location of a spent bullet shell casing located on the sidewalk in front of where he lives.
Greenlaw testified Monday that he saw a boy in a red jacket getting beaten at around 6 p.m. Jan. 27, 2010, and was running downstairs to help when he heard the gunshot. He opened the door and saw Surles holding his chest, he told the court.
Ellis provided diagrams and photos of the crime scene, which indicated where items of evidence, including blood, the shell casing and a red mop handle, were located.
The blood trail started near 60 Cumberland St. and ended about 125 feet down the street, he testified.
Matzilevich asked Ellis if he was in charge of collecting all the evidence. He said that he was but added, “Later on I found out a machete and bat were collected” by another officer.
Matzilevich also produced a photo of a bloody glove, which appeared to have hardened material in the knuckles, that Ellis verified was found at the scene, and asked if it had been tested. The detective said he didn’t believe it was tested.
Kim Stevens, a lab scientist from the state’s crime lab, testified last. She said a bullet casing found at the scene matched the gun Carr was given, but there was not enough evidence to say the bullet removed from Surles’ back came from the gun. She added that the bullet was the correct caliber and matched other bullets found in the gun.
Before court testimony started on Tuesday morning, the 14-member jury, which includes two alternates, visited the scene of the shooting on Cumberland Street. The group, which included the trial judge, Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy, and two court clerks, could be seen walking the street and entering the apartment of one of the eyewitnesses who lives near where the shooting occurred.
Police blocked off the street to vehicle traffic, and standing nearby were Benson, Walker and Matzilevich.
Benson said at the end of Tuesday’s court proceedings that he planned to call one more witness on Wednesday and then would rest his case. The defense will then present its case.