There was virtually no dispute in the courtroom Tuesday over lawmen’s account of their confrontation with a knife-wielding man.
But the prosecution and defense differed on Terry Shafer’s intent on the afternoon of Jan. 5, 2007 on the third floor of the Brown County Courthouse.
District Attorney Micheal Murray contended that Shafer, 53, threatened and endangered lawmen in a brief but rapidly escalating standoff that could have gotten someone killed. Defense attorney Tom Watson, on the other hand, sought to convince jurors in the 35th District Court trial that Shafer was a threat only to himself and that he was attempting “suicide by cop.”
Both sides rested their cases after a day of testimony, and jurors are expected to begin deliberating this morning.
Shafer is accused of aggravated assault on a peace officer in connection with the incident, which began around 1:15 p.m. in the probation department.
Sheriff’s deputy Wayne Coffman was attempting to serve an arrest warrant on Shafer for failure to appear in court on an earlier matter. Coffman testified that he asked Shafer if he had anything in his pockets.
“I damn sure do,” Coffman quoted Shafer as saying. Shafer then pulled a large kitchen knife from inside his jacket, Coffman testified.
Coffman and other deputies ordered Shafer repeatedly at gunpoint to drop the knife. He waved the knife around, said he wasn’t going to jail and told deputies to shoot him, according to testimony.
Two Taser jolts from sheriff’s Sgt. David Mercer failed to penetrate Shafer’s coat, and a blast of pepper spray did not end the confrontation. Sheriff’s Sgt. Tony Aaron managed to talk Shafer into putting down the knife, and deputies learned he also had a smaller pocketknife up his sleeve, testimony showed.
“The issue in this case is going to be, was there a threat?” Watson told jurors. “He wasn’t threatening anyone else. He was threatening himself.”
But Coffman and other deputies testified that Shafer’s actions were extremely dangerous and threatening to the lawmen and others present including Shafer’s probation officer, Robert Allsup.
Coffman said he knew there were “fixing to be big circumstances” when Shafer pulled the knife and said he wasn’t going to jail. Shafer was “very much a threat” and Coffman told him he would kill him if he took a step toward him, Coffman testified.
Aaron said he pleaded with Shafer to drop the knife. “I told him we didn’t want to have to shoot him,” Aaron testified. … “I felt like he was prepared to hurt somebody.”
Deputies acknowledged under Watson’s cross-examination that Shafer did not lunge at anyone, but deputies would not concede that Shafer hadn’t been dangerous.
“Do you believe he attempted to stab someone?” Watson asked deputy Lana Guthrie.
“Yes I do,” Guthrie replied. “He had a knife out and he was waving it around at people attempting to take him into custody.”
Most of the lawmen testified that they were at the courthouse on matters unrelated to Shafer when the incident began.
Texas Ranger Nick Hanna, one of the lawmen who went to assist, testified that he was in the courthouse on matters dealing with Shafer. He did not elaborate.
Watson rested his case after calling Coffman and Mercer to ask them about statements they made to the Brownwood Bulletin after the incident ended.
In a Jan. 8 jailhouse interview, Shafer told the Bulletin “I was at the end of my rope” when he pulled the knife as Coffman attempted to arrest him.
“I told him I wasn’t going to jail. I pulled a knife out and confronted the officer. I told him to go ahead and shoot me,” Coffman told the Bulletin.