The teenager who shot a Montgomery County police officer point blank and left him paralyzed was convicted of attempted first-degree murder yesterday after less than two hours of jury deliberations.
Terence Green, 19, could receive up to a life sentence for the shooting in August of last year. But the verdict offered little solace to Officer Kyle Olinger, 38, who recalled how he had a gun pointed at Green's head just before the shooting occurred.
"I ought to have killed him," Olinger said in the courthouse lobby, his parents standing nearby, his gun holstered around his shoulder, visible through the unzipped top of his black vest. "I ought to have shot him when I had the chance."
"I don't think there'll ever be closure," Olinger continued. "I'm in a wheelchair, and I can't get up. And no matter what they sentence him to, he'll get out. . . . And I'll never get out.
"Am I bitter? Yeah."
Just beneath his left ear, a scar stretches into the collar of his shirt, crossways to the path the bullet took when it entered his neck.
Olinger had been working for the Montgomery County Police Department for a year and a half when a routine traffic stop, in the middle of the night in Silver Spring, turned dangerous.
He testified that he had stopped a 1993 Chrysler New Yorker shortly after midnight and taken the driver around to the back of the car. Then he noticed the front seat passenger, Green, squirming. Olinger said he walked back up to the side of the car, noticed a gun on the floor and ordered everyone to put their hands in the air. He also pulled his gun.
It was a story that prosecutor Magdalena Bell, an assistant state's attorney, retold in closing arguments Friday, her quiet, measured voice making people in the overflowing courtroom lean forward. A couple dozen police officers in the audience sat tense and silent as she replayed, in detail, a law enforcement officer's worst nightmare.
Clasping her arms together and pointing her hands in the shape of a gun, Bell described how Olinger repeatedly yelled at Green to "put your hands up!" -- even as he was silently urging the teenager to "drop the gun . . . drop the gun." As Olinger testified last week, "I didn't want to . . . shoot him. . . . Technically, I could have shot him, but I was thinking, 'This will look like an execution.' ''
When defense attorney Rene Sandler gave her closing arguments, she paced past the sawed-out passenger seat of the New Yorker -- evidence that sat on a wooden pallet in front of the judge's bench. As she talked to the jury, Green doodled with one hand, then the other, then leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands in the shape of a gun and pointed them into the edge of the table.
Yesterday, as the jury announced the guilty verdicts on the attempted murder charge and two lesser counts, Green scratched the corner of his mouth with his thumbnail. Olinger's face did not move.
In the courthouse hallway later, Olinger's parents looked elated by the outcome.
"I think we're both really happy that it's over, relieved that it's over," said Ruth Ann Olinger, holding a paperback book and adding, after a beat, "My heart goes out to Mr. Green's mother."
Olinger's father, Warren, said quietly, "I'm proud of our son." His face looked strained and his eyes teared up.
As the group moved away to speak with jurors, Olinger -- who has a 15-year-old son and is a longtime Aikido instructor who continues to teach -- said grimly, "It's not the end. I knew he'd be found guilty. I trusted he'd be found guilty. I'm glad that part of it's over."
But in a voice that grew fiercer, Olinger added: "He showed no remorse. He showed no accountability. He doesn't belong on the streets."
When Green returns to court to hear his fate Jan. 6, Olinger said he would be waiting to "see what the sentencing's going to be like."
"I'll be happy with a life sentence," he said.