- 4/4/12--Alleged gunman Myles Webster of Litchfield at his probable cause hearing at Manchester District Court on April 4, 2012. Webster is accused of shooting Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
- 4/4/12--Myles Webster of Litchfield at his probable cause hearing for the alleged shooting at Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty at Manchester District Court on April 4, 2012. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
- 4/4/12--Manchester police showed up in numbers for the probable cause hearing for Myles Webster, the alleged shooter of Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty, at Manchester District Court on April 4, 2012. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
- 4/4/12--Myles Webster of Litchfield, right, sits with his public defender Robert Swales at his probable cause hearing for the alleged shooting at Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty at Manchester District Court on April 4, 2012. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
- 4/4/12--Manchester Detective Patrick Houghton gives his testimony to Assistant County Attorney Karen Gorham during the probable cause hearing for Myles Webster, the alleged shooter of Manchester police officer Daniel Doherty, at Manchester District Court on April 4, 2012. DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER
Probable cause found to pursue attempted murder charge against Webster
MANCHESTER – A police officer was about to tackle a suspect after a foot chase down an alley and onto a city street when the suspect spun and fired from feet away, according to a detective’s testimony Wednesday in Manchester district court.
The officer, Daniel Doherty, was struck in the lower leg and fell to the sidewalk, Detective Patrick Houghton testified.
The suspect, later identified by police as Myles Webster of Litchfield, then advanced on Doherty, shooting at him while the officer lay bleeding on the ground, Houghton testified.
Doherty felt his lower body hit by other rounds, Houghton testified.
Though badly wounded, Doherty managed to draw his weapon and return fire, missing the suspect, who fled, Houghton testified.
After hearing Houghton’s testimony and cross-examination by Webster’s attorney, District Court Judge Gregory Michael found probable cause Wednesday to pursue attempted murder charges against Webster.
With the finding, Webster, 22, will next appear in Hillsborough County Superior Court, where he can enter a plea.
In the meantime, he remains in the Valley Street jail held on a $1 million bond. He is facing the potential of life in prison.
Doherty remains hospitalized, recovering from his wounds in the March 21 shooting, which occurred about 6:45 p.m. on Wayne Street near the intersection with Rimmon Street.
Doherty was struck at least four and possibly five times. Bullets shattered his leg, according to court testimony. At least one bullet tore into his upper thigh, damaged his intestines and fractured his pelvis, according to testimony.
The suspect was arrested by other officers who combed the West Manchester area, Houghton said. Houghton was the only witness called by Karen Gorham, assistant Hillsborough County attorney, during the probable cause hearing.
Numerous police responded to the neighborhoods surrounding the shooting scene, and Webster was arrested after scaling a fence into a backyard at 145 Putnam St. The gun, described as a black Glock semi-automatic pistol, was recovered below the fence, Houghton said.
Earlier that day, Webster told an acquaintance, “He would take out a cop if a cop ever came to arrest him,” Houghton testified.
By “take out a cop,” Webster said he would “shoot him,” Houghton testified. After he was arrested, Webster told police, “You might as well just kill me. I’m going to jail for life anyway,” Houghton testified.
Webster also told police, “If you want to talk with me, you’d better get on it – the window of opportunity is closing,” and “Stop playing games with me, if you’re going to talk to me, talk to me,” according to the arrest affidavit, which was unsealed Tuesday.
Webster’s attorney, public defender Caroline Smith, questioned Houghton about discrepancies in what various witnesses told police.
A number of witnesses saw different parts of the incident – the initial incident in which police say Webster flashed a handgun and fired it out a car window, the foot pursuit after police were called to the scene to investigate, the shooting of Doherty, and the suspect subsequently fleeing through backyards along Rimmon and Putnam streets.
During cross-examination by Smith, Houghton admitted some witnesses described the suspect as white, and one said there were two people involved: a Hispanic and a white male.
At least one suspect described the gun as silver, not the black Glock recovered near the Putnam Street backyard fence.
However, most witnesses were consistent in reporting seeing only one suspect: a tall, thin Hispanic with bushy black hair tied back into a ponytail and wearing a black sweatshirt over a white T-shirt, Houghton said.
Smith also questioned why Webster’s hands were never tested for gun powder residue.
Under her questioning, Houghton acknowledged that witnesses weren’t given a photo lineup in order to identify Webster. Instead, police released a mug shot of Webster the morning after the shooting, identifying him as the suspect, Smith pointed out.
She suggested the police’s actions contaminated the identification of Webster as the shooter.
One witness, Pamela Burke, said that after the shooting, a Hispanic man approached her in her Rimmon Street yard and demanded the keys to her car. When the witness saw that the man held a gun in his left hand, she “froze like a zombie,” according to Houghton.
However, the woman’s son, Omo Sunmono, approached and recognized by sight the gun had been discharged and was empty, Houghton said.
Sunmono then “intervened” and chased the suspect off, Houghton said.
The incident that day began when two plainclothes police officers observed the suspect get out of a car in the area of Bridge and Amory streets on the city’s West End, Houghton said.
Police have dropped charges against Jennifer Whitfield, the woman suspected of driving the 2005 Hyundai Sonata involved in the incident.
Whitfield was arrested on a charge of failing to return a rental car after police found her following an extensive search involving various law enforcement agencies.
The plainclothes detectives observed “a tall, thin Hispanic male with a bushy black ponytail wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants, approximately 20 to 25 years old,” according to the arrest affidavit.
The suspect appeared to have an item in his waistband that might have been a weapon, according to the affidavit.
The plainclothes detectives called for patrol officers to investigate the well-being of the subject and to see if there was a weapon, according to the affidavit.
Doherty arrived five minutes later. He approached the suspect, whom he ordered to stop. The subject instead fled, with Doherty behind him, according to Houghton’s testimony.
Witness Erica Hunzelman was driving westerly on Wayne Street when she saw an officer “within arms’ length” of a suspect in black. The officer “appeared to be about to tackle him” Hunzelman told police, according to the affidavit.
Hunzelman saw something black fly into the air, and the suspect turn around with a silver handgun and begin firing at the officer, according to the affidavit.
As with Webster’s initial court appearance in the days after the shooting, more than 60 Manchester police officers filled the courtroom, filing out immediately after Michael found probable cause to hold Webster.
Before the hearing, co-defense attorney Robert Swales sought to have cameras banned from the courtroom, arguing video and photos of Webster in a jail jumpsuit and wearing ankle chains served to convict him in the public’s eye and to contaminate a potential jury pool, subverting his ability to get a fair trial.
The judge denied the request, agreeing with prosecutors that cameras only can be excluded if their presence would cause “substantial harm.”
Swales also asked the judge to order all evidence collected by the prosecution be “saved, protected and preserved.” Swales said he worried evidence such as 911 calls, handwritten notes by police, and medical records from Catholic Medical Center, where Doherty was treated, and by the American Medical Response ambulance service, might be destroyed.
Only the state, and not the defense, knows at this stage what evidence exists, Swales argued.
The judge said he would rule on the request later.
Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.