General Crime

*San Jose Police Officer Jeffrey Fontana’s Murderer DeShawn Campbell Says He Didn’t Turn Himself In Fearing Retallation

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The man accused of murdering a San Jose police officer in 2001 told jurors today he spent 10 days in hiding not because he was guilty, but because he feared being harmed by police, or retaliation from the friend he said fired the gun.When he first took the stand yesterday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, DeShawn Campbell, 29, said his friend Rodney McNary killed officer Jeffrey Fontana in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 2001 during a routine traffic check in San Jose’s Almaden Valley neighborhood.Today defense attorney Edward Sousa continued questioning Campbell about the days leading up to his Nov. 7 arrest.Campbell said he hid in the homes and apartments of several friends, before police tracked him down in the backyard of a home in the 3000 block of Stevens Lane in San Jose.Campbell said he knew from friends and news reports that he was wanted in connection with the murder.”I didn’t want to be labeled as a snitch for going to the police and telling them what happened,” he said.He said he also feared being harmed by police officers.Campbell told the courtroom that shortly after the shooting, he asked a friend to drive him to a location in the area of Capitol Expressway and 7 Trees Boulevard, “so I could turn myself in.”Campbell said he believed representatives from the police and the NAACP were in the area looking for him. However at the last minute he got out of the car, he said, and walked to a nearby friend’s house instead to continue hiding.”I was scared of the police,” he said. “I thought they was going to do something to me — hurt me.”Campbell had two active warrants for his arrest at the time of the shooting. Prosecutors have alleged that Campbell shot Fontana to avoid going to jail for his prior convictions. Yesterday Campbell described running from the fallen officer in fear, leaving his car at the scene, but taking the gun with him.Sousa queried Campbell about a variety of statements and evidence submitted earlier in the trial that could be interpreted as admissions of guilt. Campbell confirmed a previous witness’ assertion that when asked about the shooting, he responded, “I had warrants out for my arrest. I panicked. I f—-d up.” Campbell told the courtroom, “When I told them I f—-d up, I was talking about giving Rodney the gun.”Sousa asked what Campbell meant when he said he panicked. He answered, “running.”While in hiding, Campbell wrote a letter to his family, which Sousa read line by line, asking Campbell about his words.The letter included statements like “I know that I did some off da [sic] hook s–t and there is no going back to fix it.” He also asked that if he were sent to prison, someone tell his daughter “the real talk about here [sic] dad.””I want my daughter to know I never shot and killed no officer,” he said when asked to explain his words.Campbell said his daughter, now 9, is blind. He told the courtroom he was concerned she could be caught nearby if someone came to harm him in retaliation. “If anything happened, she couldn’t get away from what’s going on,” he said.Sousa asked Campbell several times about why he was afraid in the days following the shooting. The questions and answers repeatedly touched upon retaliation from McNary and his “associates.” The defense and prosecution teams have repeatedly clashed about whether law enforcement documentation of McNary’s gang affiliation can be discussed in front of the jury.After Sousa and prosecutor Lane Liroff repeatedly approached the bench on this matter, Judge Diane Northway called an early recess for lunch so she could consult an additional staff member on the topic.Campbell’s testimony continues this afternoon.

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Under cross-examination this afternoon, DeShawn Campbell appeared to waver on several statements he made earlier in his trial for allegedly shooting a San Jose police officer more than seven years ago. Campbell, 29, is charged with shooting Officer Jeffrey Fontana on Oct. 28, 2001, during a traffic stop in the city’s Almaden Valley neighborhood. In his testimony Wednesday and today, he said a friend, Rodney McNary, fired the gun Campbell borrowed from his father for protection after a fight broke out at a party.
Prosecutors say Campbell shot the officer to avoid going to jail for two outstanding warrants for his arrest.The bulk of prosecutor Lane Liroff’s questions addressed specific points in previous testimony, both Campbell’s and that of other witnesses. By returning to these details, he seemed to deflate some of Campbell’s statements about the events of that night and the days he spent in hiding before being apprehended by police Nov. 7.As he began his cross-examination, Liroff returned to an emotional letter Campbell wrote to his family while he was in hiding after the shooting. The letter included statements like “I know that I did some off da [sic] hook s—t and there is no going back to fix it.”In the letter, Campbell made multiple references to being in trouble. Campbell said previously that he did not immediately turn himself in out of fear of retaliation from police officers, McNary, or members of the gang McNary allegedly belonged to.The letter, Liroff pointed out, was only for family, not to be seen by any of the groups Campbell said he feared would hurt him.”In this letter you wanted them to know you were innocent,” he said. “Why didn’t you just say you didn’t kill the cop?”Campbell said he did not know.”I don’t know how to write that good,” he said. “I don’t know why I didn’t say it.”In the wake of an audio-visual glitch, Liroff used a pen and notepad mounted on an easel to challenge details surrounding the shooting itself. According to Campbell’s earlier testimony, he pulled into a cul-de-sac in his father’s Hyundai and McNary came running up to meet him. When Fontana pulled his car up behind the two men, McNary allegedly asked for the gun, then shot the officer as he approached.Liroff revisited this account in great detail, asking Campbell how McNary could have seen he had a gun in his car, if it was down on the floor between his legs and McNary was standing next to the driver’s side window.”I grabbed it and pulled it up and he asked for it,” Campbell said.  “You said you didn’t tell him, he saw it,” Liroff said of the weapon. Campbell acknowledged he had not made this statement previously.Next he asked Campbell to sketch Fontana’s location in proximity to a diagram of the two men and the car. The location Campbell specified did not match photographs and evidence from the crime scene.”It’s not going to work, is it?” Liroff asked him.Campbell said, “As I sit here now, that is the memory that I have.” In his remarks Wednesday and this morning, Campbell told the courtroom he was afraid of being labeled a “snitch” if he told police McNary shot Fontana. He said he also feared police officers would hurt him in retaliation for the death of one of their own.Liroff noted that Campbell is a 12-time convicted felon whose prior offenses include battery charges against officers when questioned about shoplifting at an electronics store, and once for a 2000 traffic stop when an officer found five containers of marijuana on Campbell. In the electronics store incident, Liroff said Campbell resisted arrest and became forceful with officers.”There was three officers, they were big guys,” he said. “Why didn’t you just submit?”Campbell replied, “I thought I could run away.” Liroff spent the remainder of his three-hour session pointing out how Campbell’s recollection of events differs from phone records and witness testimony. In many instances Campbell replied, “I don’t remember” to these queries. Earlier this afternoon, defense attorney Edward Sousa spent the final moments of his examination questioning Campbell openly for the first time about his fear of McNary’s alleged association with the 7 Trees Crips gang. Judge Diane Northway had previously ruled that this information would prejudice the jury.”The defense’s motives and thought process are important to explaining his otherwise inexplicable behavior, she said. “I find the probative value outweighs any prejudice and I’ll allow it.” Sousa said “fear of Rodney and his gang are central to the case” and one of Campbell’s main reason for not going to the police after the shooting. Sousa’s parents were among the many onlookers gathered in the courtroom to observe the trial.Cross-examination will continue April 27.

Copyright © 2009 by Bay City News, Inc. — Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse
without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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