Defense in Doneghy trial questions officers about colleague's actions

durman's actions scrutinized

jkegley@herald-leader.comJune 17, 2011 

Glenn Doneghy, who is charged with murder in the hit-and-run death of Lexington police officer Bryan J. Durman, sat during testimony of 911 caller Ronnie Hood, in Fayette County Circuit Court in Lexington, Ky., on Wednesday June 15, 2011. Doneghy, 34, is accused of using his vehicle to deliberately hit and kill Durman, 27, on April 29, 2010, as Durman was investigating a noise complaint on North Limestone. Photo by Pablo Alcala | Staff

PABLO ALCALA | STAFF

A jury heard testimony Thursday from several officers and firefighters who were first to arrive at the spot where Officer Bryan Durman died.

The officers occasionally choked up when discussing their fallen colleague and sometimes seemed frustrated by the defense's extensive questioning about details of the scene.

The officers painted the clearest picture yet of what happened when they arrived, just minutes after Durman was run over by a sport utility vehicle allegedly driven by Glenn Doneghy.

Doneghy, wearing a blue dress shirt and khakis, sat silently in court Thursday. His hands were in his lap and his head down most of the day.

Doneghy, 34, is charged with murder in Durman's death. He also faces charges of fleeing the scene of an accident, possession of cocaine and marijuana, and several charges of assault that stem from a confrontation with officers during his arrest.

Durman, 27, was hit and killed while investigating a report of an SUV playing loud music. Defense attorneys have criticized Durman's approach to the parked vehicle — he walked to the passenger side, which was facing a dark, one-way street. Durman was not wearing his assigned reflective vest and lighting in the area was poor, defense attorneys and witnesses have said.

On Thursday, the second day of testimony in Doneghy's trial, defense attorneys peppered Officer Eric Chumley with questions about whether Durman's approach to a parked vehicle was consistent with policy and training.

Chumley said dissecting Durman's approach is "presumption" on the part of those who weren't there. The approach was consistent with police policy and training, he said.

"He did exactly what any of us would have done," Chumley told defense attorney Kate Dunn. Chumley said officers are trained to get out of their cruisers in a safe place, approach on foot and maintain eye contact with a potentially hostile person.

"He was dispatched to what appeared to be a minor offense, but we don't know until the investigation is complete" whether a suspect might be hostile or have a weapon, Chumley said.

Through his training and experience, Chumley said, he knows that an officer can be dispatched to one thing "that actually turned out to be another."

Dunn asked whether Durman should have parked behind the parked SUV, rather than up the street in a parking lot and walking on the sidewalk to the vehicle.

Chumley said officers are trained to park behind vehicles, but that presumes that Durman knew which vehicle the loud music was coming from before he passed it in his cruiser. He said officers should not park directly in front of vehicles because it requires them to have their back to the suspect.

Dunn asked whether officers are supposed to wear reflective vests when conducting traffic stops. Chumley said officers typically don't put on vests unless they know they will be in the street for a prolonged period, such as while directing traffic.

Chumley said Durman might have exposed himself to danger by taking time to put on his vest, although Dunn stated that Durman parked in a safe spot yards away from the car.

"Would it be wise, if an officer feels like he has to go out into a lane of travel, to put on a reflective vest?" Dunn asked.

Chumley said that question presumed that Durman saw the car's occupant on the passenger side as he was driving by. He probably went to the passenger side when he walked up because officers are trained to keep suspects at arm's reach, Chumley said.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson responded to Dunn's questions about the vest.

"If you put a reflective vest on when you went into the roadway, would that keep a driver from running you down?" Larson asked.

"No, sir. Not at all," Chumley replied.

Dunn showed Chumley and jurors pictures of officers investigating the scene after Durman was taken to a hospital. They were wearing reflective vests.

Seven other officers and two captains from the Lexington fire department took the stand Thursday morning in the order they arrived at the scene. Witnesses included Officer Teri Gover, who was first to arrive, and Officers C.J. Mason, Chad Karsner and Clifton Grimm.

They told the jury how events had played out. Most officers fought tears as they described what they saw when they arrived.

They said Durman was lying on his left side, blood pouring from a wound on his head. Pieces of his uniform — including his stun gun, his radio microphone and his right shoe — were strewn in the street.

Gover, responding to Durman's call for backup before the crash, was the first to respond. Durman was hit within the four minutes it took Gover to arrive to back him up, she said.

Gover could not tell whether Durman had a pulse because of the commotion in the street, but she started resuscitation efforts. Chumley and Mason took over when they arrived, then emergency medical technicians and paramedics from the Lexington Division of Fire.

While she was administering CPR, Gover said, she heard someone asking who was going to pay for the damage to their car. Mason said he was in shock at the sight of his friend motionless in the road.

"I remember yelling, 'Come on, Durman, come on!' to get something out of him. But nothing," he said.

Karsner and Grimm said they could not recognize Durman's face because of his injuries.

Dunn's questions of the first responders focused on visibility. The defense has said that poor lighting in the area contributed to the crash. Witnesses said that brighter street lamps were installed after Durman's death.

Some officers said it was dark and others said they could not remember.

"I don't remember anything about the lighting. It was dark because it was 10 o'clock," Gover said. "I could see him lying there."

Dunn also scrutinized a police report done by Sgt. James Burdette, the first supervisor on scene, that indicated he requested faster medical care when he found out the victim was an officer.

Burdette's report said that the sergeant asked an ambulance crew to "rush it up" when he discovered Durman in the street.

Dunn asked if "that kind of tension" is displayed when a regular citizen is hit.

"No, ma'am," Burdette replied.

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