09/26/10 — Defendant takes stand in cop shooting trial

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Defendant takes stand in cop shooting trial

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on September 26, 2010 1:50 AM

At Jerome Wright's attempted murder trial Friday, the defendant himself took the stand to explain the events of June 8, 2008.

Wright, 27, is accused of trying to kill Goldsboro police Officer Clint Hales. Wright faces one count of attempted first-degree murder, two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, carrying a concealed weapon and possession of marijuana.

Wright, who already is serving time in prison on a federal charge of possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, has pleaded not guilty to the state charges.

The shooting occurred when Wright was stopped near the intersection of Elm and Creech streets because of a suspected taillight violation, but Wright said his interaction with Hales first occurred well before he was pulled over.

Wright said that about a month before he was stopped by Hales, the car he was driving was involved a chase with law enforcement. Wright said he was in Rocky Mount at the time and was not the driver of the car, which is registered to his girlfriend.

Days after the chase, Wright said he was approached by Hales and another officer in the parking lot of the night club, Teasers, on U.S. 117 South, where Hales told him he believed Wright was the driver of the car in the chase and was a drug dealer.

Wright said he wouldn't give any information to Hales at the time, to which Hales said they would have to do things the hard way, according to Wright.

On the afternoon of June 8, 2008, Wright said Hales had been following him for several streets before he pulled him over on Creech Street.

Wright also said that he was told he was pulled over for a taillight violation, but he recently had an inspection done and said he knew the taillight wasn't out. Wright said Hales asked him to get out of the car, which Wright refused because he wasn't comfortable being around Hales with no one else present since Hales already told Wright he believed him to be the one that led the chase and was a drug dealer.

Wright said he asked Hales to call another officer to be there, but Hales did not and told him again to get out of the car.

"I couldn't trust officer Hales," Wright said. "He told me at the club that we were going to have to do this the hard way."

At that point, Wright said Hales opened his car door and attempted to pull him out of the car when Wright jerked away and shut the door. Wright said he then reached for his keys to start the car and leave when Hales began firing. Wright said he felt a bullet hit his car seat and it was at that point that he got out of the car and was shot by Hales in the buttocks. He then drew his own gun, which was in his pants pocket and returned fire hitting Hales in the bullet-proof vest and in the abdomen.

"I felt that if I didn't use my gun, he would have killed me," Wright said. "I just wanted to stop him from shooting ... as soon as he stopped shooting, I stopped shooting."

Wright also talked about other charges and convictions he has had, all of which were related to carrying a concealed weapon or possession of drugs. Defense Attorney William Bland asked if in any of the other times he's been stopped and had a gun, if he's ever had a problem with an officer or a violent interaction.

"I've never even had an aggressive conversation with the officers," he said.