Wilbert Lee Evans, on trial in the fatal shooting of an Alexandria deputy sheriff last January, testified yesterday he intended only to shoot off his handcuffs when he grabbed the officer's service revolver.
"I didn't have no intention to shoot anyone . . . I'm sorry," said the 34-year-old North Carolina native, who could face the death penalty if convicted.
Evans, who already faced murder and robbery charges in North Carolina, had been brought to Alexandria to testify at an extradition hearing when the incident occurred. Deputy William Gene Truesdale was escorting Evans and two other prisoners to the Alexandria jail after the Jan. 27 hearing when Evans allegedly grabbed the gun and shot him fatally in the chest.
The trial is the first local case in recent Alexandria history involving the possibility of the death penalty. Killing a law enforcement officeer in the line of duty is a capital offense in Virginia if proven to be willful and premeditated.
Alexandria chief prosecutor John E. Kloch said yesterday in an opening argument that Evans "would do anything to effect his escape" and had told another jail prisoner he would do anything, "including kill."
Two prisoners testified that Evans spent the night before the shooting in the Alexandria jail discussing his planned escape. "It was like he was going to war," said Ralph Washington. "[Evans] said he had nothing to lose . . . If anybody gets in his way he was going to take him out . . . kill him."
But defense attorney E. Blair Brown disputed the veracity of Washington's testimony, saying Washington had given a statement to authorities only days after the shooting and had said nothing about Evans saying he would "waste someone."
Evans was one of five men arrested by Alexandria police last November in connection with a 1978 murder and a string of convenience store robberies in the Raleigh area of North Carolina. He was brought back to Alexandria on the day before the Truesdale shooting to testify at an extradition hearing for one of those men, assistant prosecutor Noel Butler said yesterday.
Evans, who had appeared cooperative the night before, according to Butler, suddenly refused to testify on the day of the shooting. "He was pushing his arms away and saying I don't know anything," Butler said.
Kloch reenacted the shooting incident, hancuffing himself to inmate Anthony Jasper, who had been cuffed to Evans on the day of the shooting, and having him describe the chain of events to the jury.
"Let me go or I'll kill your a--," Jasper said Evans shouted at Truesdale as they struggled for the deputy's .38 Smith and Wesson revolver.
Evans denied the statement yesterday and said he had never implied to his fellow prisoners that he wanted to escape. He said the urge to escape only struck as he was standing outside the jail door.
"Truesdale was still standing, there [after the shot]," Evans said. "I didn't think he could have been shot anywhere but in the arm. . . . I didn't see him fall. I just ran."
Evans was captured a few blocks away by Alexandria police.
The trial is expected to conclude today.