CRIME

Witness in District Heights officer's attempted murder trial speaks out

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DISTRICT HEIGHTS, Md. (WJLA) - It was September, 2012 when District Heights police officer Johnnie Riley spotted Calvin Kyle on a stolen motorcycle.

Sgt. Johnnie Riley of District Heights police is charged with attempted murder. (Courtesy Photo)
The scene of the officer-involved shooting, September of 2012. (WJLA)

What happened in the next few minutes would change both men's lives forever.

Kyle is now paralyzed from the waste down - and Sgt. Riley is charged with attempted murder.

One woman, who doesn't want to be identified, was the first prosecution witness at Riley's trial on Friday. She watched that evening on Foster Street as a handcuffed Kyle slipped out of Sgt. Riley's cruiser as the officer distracted.

"He was still handcuffed...he was running with no shoes on," she recalls. "The officer threw his baton and missed. Pulled out his gun. One shot, missed, second, hit him in the back. He went down, face down."

Prosecutors say at that moment, Riley crossed from cop to criminal by shooting an unarmed, barefoot, handcuffed man in the back rather than calling for backup or trying to run after him.

In opening arguments Riley's defense attorney described an honorable former soldier and proud officer who may have made a mistake in a five-second emergency. He contrasted that to Kyle's record as a career criminal with a long history of convictions and run-ins with the law, which have continued even in recent months.

That first witness says, to her, none of that matters.

"I don't agree with it," she says. "He shot him in the back. He was handcuffed; he was running away from him, not toward him, so he was in no type of harm's way."

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