An Atlantic City police officer was shot while trying to save three teens being robbed at gunpoint, all sides in the attempted murder case borne of that night in 2016 agree.
But the involvement of the two defendants is the question the jury will have to answer.
Martel Chisolm and Demetris Cross went on trial Thursday for attempted murder, armed robbery and other crimes from that night.
Alleged co-conspirator Jerome Damon is missing, killed when the downed officer’s partner returned fire.
Damon was the man with the gun who lured three teens with the promise of money for the marijuana they had on them, Chisolm’s attorney, Robin Lord, stressed. He was the one who shot as Officer Josh Vadell exited his police car and was struck in the head.
And he’s the one who continued shooting as Vadell’s partner, Officer Thomas McCabe, returned fire, fatally wounding Damon before turning his attention to saving Vadell’s life.
The shooting that left Vadell retired and still recovering was a tragedy, Lord told the jurors.
But that doesn’t mean the other two men are guilty.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy said it does.
Without Chisolm and Cross, Damon wouldn’t have been able to commit his crime.
They knew he had a gun and that a robbery was going to happen, Levy said. They acted as lookout, which “gave Damon the drop” on being able to quickly shoot Vadell before the officer had a chance to get all the way out of his patrol car.
McCabe, who will be the state’s first witness,” is expected to testify how he locked eyes with the suspect in green, now alleged to be Chisolm, and thought to himself, “I got this one.”
But then there was a pop, Vadell fell, and everything changed.
“Officer down!” McCabe yelled into his radio as Damon continued to shoot.
McCabe returned fire, then turned to his fallen partner.
He dropped his gun and held pressure on Vadell’s head, Levy said.
Because of this, “they did get away with it,” Levy said of Cross and Chisolm.
The three victims ran as well, as the bullets flew.
One will testify that he passed the hospital with all the police around it and thought, “Wow, that guy saved my life.”
But finding the defendants not guilty will not negate those heroic acts. It just would mean they are following the law that says they must be certain “beyond a reasonable doubt.”
“And there will be doubt,” she promised. “There will be a whole lot of doubt.”
After openings, one juror was dismissed for an unspecified issue. The remainder were questioned separately. After that, Superior Court Judge John Rauh told jurors there were court matters to tend to, and they would be sent home with trial resuming Monday.