Instead of partaking in a late-night meal, Sheehan and Deputy Brian Carlisle responded to that call the night of May , 00.
What transpired in the following minutes is being debated in Brunswick County Superior Court this week as a jury weighs evidence in the case against George Cooper, who is charged with two felony counts of assaulting law enforcement officers.
Prosecutors allege that Cooper pointed a shotgun at the deputies after they arrived at his Leland home that night.
Assistant District Attorney Gina Essey told jurors in her opening statement Tuesday afternoon that Cooper was on his back porch when deputies arrived and then retreated inside his home. She said Sheehan knocked on the side of the trailer before Cooper emerged out the back door.
“The door flies open. George Cooper comes out with a single-barrel shotgun pointed directly at Deputy Sheehan,” Essey told jurors.
Defense attorney Kevin Bullard countered by telling jurors that Cooper didn’t know who was at his door when he heard a banging on his trailer, picked up his shotgun and started to open the back door.
“As soon as he opens the door, he is shot,” Bullard said.
Cooper hasn’t denied having a shotgun, but he has said in the past that it was unloaded.
Sheehan testified Tuesday afternoon about the night’s events, becoming visibly emotional and wiping away tears as he recounted his radio call to dispatchers saying shots had been fired.
The deputy testified that he was approaching the back porch when he stumbled on a wobbly step.
“When I looked up, I saw Mr. Cooper came out with a shotgun,” Sheehan testified, adding that he heard a “loud explosion” that he believed came from the weapon and thought he saw something whirring past his head.
Sheehan said his training kicked in and he fired his weapon, believing he had been shot.
Cooper was shot at least six times, according to the attorneys, and Sheehan called dispatchers to request emergency medical responders to the scene.
He said he ripped at his uniform’s shirt to see if there was a bullet wound but discovered he had not been hit.
Many of the events directly after the shooting were a blur, Sheehan testified. He said he did remember securing the shotgun and Cooper’s young son coming out and asking if his father was going to jail.
He said the shooting occurred within “seconds” of exiting his vehicle. His gun remained in his holster until he saw Cooper at the back door with the shotgun, he said.
He did not have his blue lights on, which he said was standard when responding to a domestic disturbance. The deputy’s primary job that day was serving warrants and court summons, and he testified he was backing up Carlisle on the call.
Lyle Baroski, a neighbor of Cooper, also testified Tuesday, saying he had made the 9 call after hearing loud noises and two men arguing. He said in the call, which was played to jurors, that it was not an emergency.
He said he heard several rounds go off that sounded like firecrackers and that he assumed came from a small-caliber weapon.
Testimony will continue Wednesday as the defense cross examines Sheehan.
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