Jurors Hear 911 Call by Ex-Soldier Accused of Murder
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Gary Smith, a former U.S. Army Ranger, sobbed heavily as he told a 911 operator that he had found his roommate, also a former Ranger, dead of a gunshot wound inside their Gaithersburg apartment.
"Oh my God, help me," Smith said in September 2006, according to a recording of the call played yesterday in Montgomery County Circuit Court, where Smith, 25, is being tried on a first-degree murder charge.
"We were drinking," Smith told the operator later, "and I dropped him off at the house, and I came back, and he had a big hole in his head."
Hours later, while being questioned by detectives, Smith changed his account of events.
He actually was in the apartment when his roommate shot himself, he told the detectives. He told them that he dumped the gun, a revolver he owned, into a nearby lake.
To prosecutors, the 911 call goes to the heart of their case: Smith gave several versions of events after the shooting.
But defense attorney Andrew Jezic said in his opening statement that post-traumatic stress could explain Smith's unusual behavior after what the defense contends was a suicide. Jezic said a psychiatrist will tell the jury that when someone with the disorder "sees something that is very violent and very disturbing . . . certain bizarre actions follow, or could follow."
Smith also was terrified the gun would link him to the shooting, and he was worried about a water pipe for smoking marijuana that was found in the apartment, Jezic said. During questioning with detectives, Smith said he was "scared" or "terrified" 37 times, Jezic said in his opening statement.
The 911 call offered a window into the events of late Sept. 25 or early the next morning. Smith's speech was dominated by heaving cries, leading the 911 operator to ask him to repeat himself. At one point, he described his roommate, 22-year-old Michael McQueen, as his "best friend."
"I went to war with him. We went to war with him. He was . . . " Smith said.
As his voice trailed off, the operator broke in: "Okay. Do you know, do you see a gun or anything?"
"No," Smith said.