Moments before a crack addict killed an Alexandria police officer last year with a shotgun blast to the face, the gunman lamented how badly the confrontation had turned out, the dead officer's partner testified yesterday.
"He said, 'Things weren't supposed to go down like this. Things went bad,' " said Officer Andrew Chelchowski, whose partner, Cpl. Charles W. Hill, was slain in the drug-related hostage incident in an Old Town housing project.
"I told him, 'That's good. No one's been hurt. We can work this out,' " Chelchowski said he told the gunman, Jamie Martin Wise. Seconds later, Wise and Hill lay dead and Chelchowski was writhing on the ground, wounded by more than 100 shotgun pellets that he still carries in his legs.
Chelchowski's testimony ended the first day of the trial in U.S. District Court of Theodore Henderson III. The 19-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., man was indicted this spring on conspiracy, racketeering and 11 other charges alleging that he helped hire Wise to intimidate an Alexandria crack dealer into paying a $3,800 drug debt.
The May 1989 shootings enraged area residents and led to tougher laws in many jurisdictions to allow evictions of public housing tenants suspected of selling drugs.
Eddie Jackson, the dealer Wise was allegedly hired to intimidate, was sentenced to 20 years for helping run a large crack distribution network out of his mother's apartment in Hopkins Court. Two people with whom Henderson is alleged to have conspired, Bruce Murrell, of Brooklyn, and Armstead Gravette, of Alexandria, have been sentenced to life without parole in the case.
Jackson, who agreed to testify in hopes of reducing his sentence, said Henderson once threatened him with a rusty .45-caliber handgun in an effort to make him pay Murrell drug money he was owed. Jackson said that days later, Wise knocked on the door to his mother's apartment, pulled a sawed-off shotgun out of a pillowcase and pushed his way in.
Wise demanded that Jackson and others give him crack, once threatening to kill Jackson's mother if Jackson's younger brother failed to deliver a rock of crack, Jackson testified. Wise eventually sent everyone out but Jackson.
"I thought he was going to let me go like he did everybody else, but he put the shotgun to my head and took me outside," Jackson told the jury.
Chelchowski testified that he and Hill were hidden behind a neighbor's fence when Wise entered the area behind the apartment. Wise and his hostage walked past the two officers before he saw them and doubled back.
"I was trying to talk him into releasing the hostage and putting down his weapon," Chelchowski said. "He said to me, 'All I want to do is leave, is walk out of here.' I said, 'I can't let you do that.' "
Chelchowski said he and Hill laid their weapons in the grass in a failed effort to persuade Wise to do the same. A minute later, Chelchowski heard a police sniper's shot that struck Wise.
"I only heard a very faint shot, but I could see the bullet leave the body when his shirt billowed and the blood came out," Chelchowski said. As Wise fell to his right, he lifted his shotgun and fired the blast that killed Hill.
Chelchowski said that as he tried to scramble to safety, he saw Wise "work the action of the shotgun once more and fire a second round." That shot struck Chelchowski, who nows walks with a pronounced limp.
The trial continues today in U.S. District Court.