The man accused of using a Burbank officer's gun against him and his partner during a scuffle at a Kmart last year was double-handcuffed because of his size and to allow for greater range of motion, according to testimony Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Jamie Willard — the man accused of shooting at two Burbank police officers after he was able to wrangle one of the guns while under arrest at Kmart for an alleged shoplifting — required two connected handcuffs because his 6-foot-tall, 220-pound frame was too large for a single cuff, one of the officers testified during the preliminary hearing.
Burbank Police Officer Alex Gutierrez was shot repeatedly in the chest, but was protected by his bulletproof vest. Officer Derek Green, a seven-year veteran, was shot in the hand and suffered a leg injury.
Willard, 31, faces two counts of attempted murder and other charges and has remained in custody in lieu of $1-million bail. Witnesses to the shooting and preceding struggle took the stand this week in Los Angeles County Superior Court in Pasadena. A judge is expected to rule in the coming days whether there's enough evidence to proceed to jury trial.
According to courtroom testimony, Willard allegedly stole CDs, DVDs and other items from the Kmart on San Fernando Road on July 2, 2010, and store employees were waiting on police to take him into custody.
The store's loss prevention officer, Jose Castillo, testified that Willard was seen on the store's surveillance cameras putting items into a bag and ice cooler.
Castillo asked three other employees, including cashier Kevin Rivera, to assist in confronting Willard before he exited the store.
Willard was eventually detained by the store's loss prevention employees after a scuffle that required all four employees to control him, Castillo said in court Monday.
Castillo added that they were in the loss prevention office awaiting police when Willard began to complain that his handcuffs were too tight.
“I looked and they were definitely swollen, yes,” Castillo said when public defender John Love asked if he had seen Willard's wrists.
“I felt bad, so I removed both sets of handcuffs,” Castillo added.
That's when Willard grabbed a fire extinguisher that was on the floor near a door and swung it at Castillo, he testified.
“I don't think he knew where he wanted to hit; he just wanted to hit me,” Castillo said.
Green testified that he heard the scuffle as he arrived on the scene and began running to the loss prevention office.
He pushed Willard toward a back wall and told him to sit down while pointing a Taser gun at him, Green said.
“Because of his size at the time and for range of motion,” Green said he “double-cuffed” Willard, adding that it was difficult to get both of his wrists close enough for a single handcuff.
Gutierrez, who had been on the force 18 months at the time of the incident, arrived to assist. The two escorted Willard out of the store and toward two patrol cars parked near the entrance.
Green testified that he was unlocking his patrol car from the front-passenger side door to place the things he had in his hands on the seat when he noticed pushing and shoving between Gutierrez and Willard, who were on the other side of the vehicle.
In a matter of seconds, Green said he heard Gutierrez say, “He has my gun, he has my gun.”
As Gutierrez and Willard struggled for control of the gun, Green took out his gun but said he did not have a clear shot of the suspect.
When Green reached for his radio to call for backup, he testified that Willard fired at him, hitting him in his left hand, which was holding the radio. He added that it was difficult to recall how many shots Willard fired.
As the radio flew out of his hand, Green said Willard looked like he was falling to the ground as the scuffle with Gutierrez continued.
It was at that point that Green said he returned fire, shooting at Willard's lower body seven to eight times. Willard suffered only minor injuries before he was subdued.
Gutierrez had not been called to testify as of Tuesday.