Testimony began this morning in the preliminary hearing for a man accused of fatally shooting Vallejo police Officer James Capoot during a pursuit after a bank robbery in November 2011. At the hearing in Solano County Superior Court in Fairfield, Vallejo police Officer Peppino Messina testified that defendant Henry Albert Smith looked directly at him as his Yukon Denali sped past his parked patrol car on Tuolomne Street at about 60 mph with Capoot in pursuit. “He made eye contact,” Messina said. Smith, 39, of Fairfield, is charged with Capoot’s murder on the afternoon of Nov. 17, 2011. He has also been charged with several special-circumstance allegations including lying in wait and killing a police officer to avoid arrest. He could face the death penalty ifconvicted.
Messina said he joined the chase, which ended when Capoot used his patrol car to make Smith’s SUV spin out on Janice Street in residential neighborhood. Smith fled the vehicle as it was still moving, and Capoot gave chase on foot, Messina said. “He was about 10 to 15 yards behind the suspect,” Messina said of Capoot. Messina also joined the foot chase but said he lost sight of the suspect and Capoot. “I heard three shots. Two were one after another, then there was a two- to three-second pause and then the last shot,” Messina said. He said he saw the microphone that Capoot had been wearing on his uniform dangling over the top of a fence along the side yard of a home at 124 Janice St. “I pushed the fence down to get to the backyard. I saw Jim lying face-down in the backyard. His arms were under his body,” Messina testified.
Messina said he and his police dog searched the yard for the suspect then returned to help Capoot, who was unresponsive but making moaning sounds, Messina testified. Messina and another officer who arrived took off Capoot’s shirt and bulletproof vest and began CPR, Messina said. “I tried to get a carotid pulse, but didn’t get anything,” Messina said. Capoot had been shot once in the back, and later died at a hospital. The first witness to testify this morning was Jessica Arroyo, a teller at the Bank of America on Springs Road where the robbery occurred prior to the car chase.
Arroyo testified that she saw a man in the merchants’ line covering his face with a bank bag, and that his skin looked strange. When he got to her station, she saw that he was wearing a mask, she said. “He said, ‘Put the money in the bag. Don’t say anything, and don’t push the button,'” Arroyo testified. She emptied her top drawer, putting $3,000 into the bag. Bank customer Nabil Saleh testified that the robber walked to the door, then ran when a security guard shouted at him, “Hey.” Saleh testified that he saw the man get into an SUV. The security guard told him to follow the car to get its license plate number, Saleh said.
Saleh said he stayed three to four car lengths behind the suspect’s vehicle until Capoot pulled alongside him in his patrol car and asked, “Which vehicle?” Capoot then sped off after the SUV with his lights and siren on. Testimony is continuing this afternoon in the preliminary hearing, which will allow a judge to determine whether there is enough evidence to hold Smith for trial. Capoot’s wife and three daughters were in court this morning.
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