A man accused of killing a San Jose police officer took the stand today in Santa Clara County Superior Court to describe a night of partying gone awry more than seven years ago that ended, he said, when a friend fatally shot the rookie officer.DeShawn Campbell, 29, is charged with shooting Officer Jeffrey Fontana on Oct. 28, 2001, during a traffic stop in the city’s Almaden Valley
neighborhood. Speaking softly, Campbell corroborated his not-guilty plea with testimony about the hours leading up to the early morning shooting. He told jurors that his friend Rodney McNary was the one who killed Fontana.”Rodney shot him,” he said. “I just seen him fall.”Fontana, 24, had been on the force only a few months. McNary used Campbell’s gun, he said, which he brought with him for protection after being involved in a fight at a party earlier that night.Campbell said Rodney handed him the gun after firing and told him to get rid of the weapon. “I just took off running,” he said. “I don’t know what was on his mind to make him do that; I didn’t know what he was thinking next.”Prompted by defense attorney Edward Sousa, Campbell described a party he attended off Blossom Hill Road the night of Oct. 27 with McNary and some others.Campbell said a fight broke out in the back yard, and he heard “popping noises” he took for gunshots. Campbell and another friend fled the yard, meeting McNary on the street, he said, where he parked his black Mustang. Leaving the neighborhood, McNary clipped two cars and hit a person, Campbell said, pinning him between the Mustang and a parked car before he fell to the street.Another car gave chase to the Mustang, Campbell said, and McNary turned into another neighborhood, stopped the car and ran. Campbell said he also ran.Hours later, the two men met again to reclaim the abandoned Mustang, Campbell said. Campbell said he drove his dad’s Hyundai and took a gun “out of my pop’s closet” as protection, fearing retribution from the people who chased the Mustang after the party.In the early morning hours of Oct. 28, Campbell said he met McNary on a cul-de-sac near the Mustang. To avoid suspicion, he pulled the Hyundai into a driveway, he said, “like I lived there.”As the two men talked, another car came down the street and pulled up behind Campbell. When questioned by the defense attorney, Campbell said the car had only headlights on, and did not turn on the flashing blue and red police lights until it stopped.According to Campbell, McNary was standing next to the driver’s side window.”He asked for the gun, I gave it to him,” he said of the weapon sitting on the floor of his car.Campbell told the courtroom that Fontana started to approach and address the two men when McNary shot him. McNary ran one way, Campbell said, and he ran another. He recalled that Fontana fell backwards and did not move, or say anything after he was shot.When asked if he feared McNary would hurt him, Campbell said, “I didn’t know if he would or wouldn’t.”During the hours following the shooting, Campbell said, he stopped briefly at the homes of several friends and family members. Campbell could not provide full names or exact spellings for some of these individuals.He told only a trusted few that a police officer was shot, he said. Campbell was worried “word would get out that I’m telling people who did it,” he said. “I can get hurt that way.”Campbell also stated that he was afraid police would track him down through the abandoned Hyundai. “I know that cops are close,” he said. “If something happened to another cop, they kind of sort of take that personally.”The next day he and a friend read online news reports of the killing, Campbell said. His friend asked if he did it.”I remember shaking my head and saying, ‘F that,'” he said.Campbell said he considered McNary a friend, although “he’s way older than me.” He described the man as “a wild person.”Campbell will continue his testimony tomorrow, when prosecutor Lane Liroff will likely have a chance to question him.Prosecutors have alleged that Campbell, who Liroff has said “habitually” avoided arrest, shot Fontana to avoid being detained.Campbell, a felon who made bail on a separate case but failed to show in court, had two active warrants out for his arrest at the time of Fontana’s death.McNary’s current whereabouts are unclear. Liroff declined to comment on the subject.At the start of the testimony, Campbell said he has a 9-year-old daughter and confirmed his prior convictions for a variety of offenses, including battery, second-degree robbery and petty theft. If Campbell is convicted, he is not eligible for the death penalty because Judge Diane Northway has ruled that he is mildly retarded. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that executing a mentally retarded person violates the Fifth Amendment’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.
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