LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Testimony is underway Monday in the jury trial of a Lufkin man accused of punching a police officer after the officer confronted him for walking out of the Pitser Garrison Convention Center with a beer in his hand in August 2016.
Christopher Blaine Jones, 27, appeared in Judge Bob Inselmann's 217th Judicial District Court Monday. He was originally charged with third-degree felony assaulting a public servant, Class A misdemeanor resisting arrest, and Class C misdemeanor public intoxication.
Inselmann rejected Jones' guilty plea back in October of 2015 because Jones kept making it seem like the Lufkin PD officer was asking to get hit in the way he was treating them in regard to the alcohol.
Prosecuting attorney Sandra Martin in opening statements detailed the scene of an event at the Pitser-Garrison Convention Center. She said the defendant was leaving with liquor though not allowed to leave the building with an opened container.
She said the defendant was with a group of people. A man named Clint told Sgt. David Walker, who attempted to stop the defendant from leaving the premises, "You have two choices. Go back inside, or you know the other one."
She said Walker asked Jones to put his hands behind his back.
"He appeared to comply, then punched Sgt.Walker in the face," Martin said.
Al Charanza, Jones' defense attorney, made an opening statement. He said that the original confrontation was between Clint Smith, his ex-wife, and Walker. Charanza said Jones has attended the event with his family members.
"He was going back to the auction to pay for a picture he paid for." Charanza said.
Charanza said Jones was unlawfully arrested. Charanza argued that Walker was working overtime and was not to be considered a "public servant."
He said there is no doubt that Jones hit Walker, but he was unlawfully arrested by an officer who was not acting as a public servant at the moment.
"Things got out of hand, but you have to separate what Clint did. Is what Jones did criminal?" Charanza said.
He said Walker shot his taser at Jones.
Martin called Lt. David Young of the Lufkin Police Department to the stand. He was present when Walker called for assistance. Young said he arrested the defendant for public intoxication, resisting arrest, and assault of public servant.
"It took me a couple seconds to find Walker," Young said. "I saw Sgt. Walker in front of a group of people who appeared to be surrounding him. Then I saw a fist come out of the crowd and punched Walker."
He said Walker fell back some steps and fell on his back. Young said when he got to Walker, Jones was on top of Walker.
A civilian, "Drew," came in and pushed Jones off of Walker. Young said Jones was highly intoxicated and was resisting arrest. He said they asked him his name and in a drunken voice, he replied, "It don't f------ matter."
Young said a woman was meanwhile kicking Drew in the back and saying, "let him go."
Young said after the incident was under control, Walker had a glazed look on his face as though he had been unconscious. Young said he never encountered a situation like this while supervising the wild life turkey convention.
Charanza addressed the witness. Young said he was paid on his city check for the event.
Young agreed that someone else of the police department had to go to the event to transport the defendant to the jail. He said he did not have a patrol car that night and that it is normal procedure that another officer who was on duty would be the one to transport and take information at the scene.
He said he is the higher ranking officer, but Walker is most knowledgeable about Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission guidelines and issues.
Young said the area where the incident happened was well-lit and the assault did cause bodily injury. He agreed that the use of a taser was not considered deadly force. Young said that the officers who responded to the incident did not know the taser had been deployed until after the fact.
Cpl. Randy Brooks took the stand next. He said officers are assigned to work at these events by the police department. He said they wear their uniforms.
He said Walker met with all officers present to let them know where to post to make sure no one left with opened containers. He said a group walked up and some had cans in their hands. He said he heard Walker say he needed help in the parking lot.
"I saw a large group of people. The best way to describe it is when you saw a fight in grade school, and everyone circled around," Brooks said.
He said that Walker was in a "bladed position." He said Jones acted like he would cooperate, then swung around with a roundhouse punch to Walker's head. Brooks said Walker fell straight back. When his head hit the ground, there was a distinctive crunching sound.
Brooks said he heard the taser deploy shortly after.
"I figured it didn't make contact with Jones because he kept on with his actions," Brooks said.
Brooks said Jones jumped on top of Walker and cocked back to swing again. He said one dart from the taser was in Jones and the other was found. Both darts must make contact to be effective.
He said Walker had abrasions on his arms, his glasses were shattered, and his knee was bruised. He said Walker is over 50.
"I have no doubt that Jones intentionally hit Walker," he said.
Charanza went back to the rotation list. Brooks told Charanza that they don't choose what events they go to. He also agreed that policy calls for them to call an on-duty officer when incidents like this occur.
He agreed he's been tased before and it's not pleasant. He also said the prongs on tasers were meant to stick into the skin.
He agreed with Martin that he is a peace officer 24/7 and is able to arrest people anywhere in Texas.
Charanza asked him if he were off-duty in normal clothes spending time with family, if he would still be acting as a peace officer. Brooks said it depends on if someone was at risk for being hurt.
Martin called Mike Morrison to the stand. He works for North Houston Pole Line. He was at the banquet the night of the incident. He said he wasn't drinking that night, and he saw the incident happen.
"He just kept telling them to get rid of the alcohol," Morrison said. "I was thinking he was fixin' to have problems with him."
Morrison said Jones was being belligerent with the officer. He said the officer turned to call for backup. While doing so, Jones punched him in the head.
The state called Drew Crawford to the stand. He said Jones turned and stood his ground to Walker. He said Jones looked combative.
"As soon as Sgt. Walker told him to put his hands behind his back, he punched him right between the eyes down to the pavement," Crawford said.
Crawford said he doesn't remember anything but being kicked in the head shortly after by "some woman." He said he later learned that she was a woman Walker was pursuing.
The next officer to take the stand said he transported Jones to the hospital and jail after the incident. Martin displayed pictures of Jones while he was at CHI St. Luke's Health Memorial. He said his wounds were normal for a person who had been tased.
Walker himself took the stand. He described the incident. He said the group was leaving with Bud Lights in their hands. After calling for their attention, he said, the group ignored him. He said there was one girl in the group.
"Her dress was just a flying. They were running!" Walker said.
Walker said once he caught up to the group, Smith confronted him. He said he knew what was about to happen.
"He was super aggressive, but I didn't know why," Walker said. "All of a sudden, I got hit. And hit pretty good."
Walker said he wanted to know who did this to him. He'd never been knocked out that way.
Walker said his speed of thought slowed down for six months.
Charanza asked him if these events were separate. Walker agreed and said they were paid time and a half to be at these functions.
Walker said the woman who approached him in the parking lot said everything was okay and that they had it taken care of. Charanza asked him why at that point he didn't leave them alone. He said he didn't know what issue she was talking about, so he side-stepped her.
He said he never confronted Jones until he chipped in with the threat that he had two options.
The defense called June Smith to the stand. She is Jones' grandmother. They established that they went to the event as a family. She said her granddaughter came in to tell her it's time to go.
"When I got there, Blane (Jones) was over there handcuffed on his knees with tasers falling out of him," she said.
June said she took pictures to prove that the incident was in a well-lit area because of allegations that they happened in the dark.
Clinton Smith, Jones' uncle, took the stand next. He said he left the building first with his daughter and ex-wife. He said he slipped out with the beer not thinking of it. Walker came behind him saying, "Son, hey boy, you need to put the drink down. You hear me talking to you?" He said he sat the drink down and continued walking toward the car.
He said he never said, "you have two options," to the officer because he knew being quiet would have been the best thing to do in the situation.
He said Walker was being unprofessional and seemed to have a desire to start a problem.
Martin called out what she felt was an inconsistency in his answers. She said he originally admitted to pushing an officer a little bit and giving him choice words. He said he didn't do anything.
Martin asked him if he told Brooks, "take that badge off so I can kick your a--."
Smith denied saying that.
Charanza called Breathered Brandall to the stand. He had been mentioned several times as a large man who was a part of the group. He said the officer was being unprofessional and calling Smith "boy" and "son." Brandall said he and Jones left separately without any beers.
Jones' sister took the stand. She said everyone involved in the family was saying they just wanted to leave and go home. She admitted to seeing Jones hit the officer. Martin asked her if she thought it was okay to hit an officer. She responded that if one felt threatened or harassed they might do so depending on the circumstances.
Jones took the stand. He said he hit the officer because Walker was harassing him and trying to pat him down for no reason.
Jones said anyone would take up for a family member.
"It was the way he was talking to them and handling them," Jones said.
Jones said the argument was escalating.
Martin asked him if he felt like it was okay to hit a peace officer. He said it depended on the circumstances.