Either way the jurors decide in the Bourbon County lethal force case, attorneys told them in closing arguments in the civil trial that they'd be sending an important message to the law enforcement community.
Decide that Deputy Sheriff Ed Rodgers was justified in shooting Robert Brewer in Sept. 21, 2007, said defense counsel Adrian Mendiondo, and you tell law enforcement they are allowed to defend themselves when confronted by the potentially dangerous.
Decide that Rodgers was justified in his actions, and you tell the community that the next time they come face to face with law enforcement, they can expect abusive, even violent, confrontation, countered plaintiff's attorney Ed Cooley.
These were among the arguments heard by the eight male jurors before they began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon. The jurors must decide whether Rodgers reasonably believed it was necessary to use lethal force to protect himself when he fired his .40-caliber Glock service revolver at Brewer, who was partially hidden behind a tree, hitting Brewer in the wrist and chest.
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The estate of Brewer, who died two years later of unrelated causes, has brought a suit against Rodgers, accusing him of violating Brewer's civil rights. This is the second trial in this case; the first trial ended in mistrial last summer.
On Wednesday, closing arguments were preceded by the appearance of defense witnesses for Rodgers who testified that he had answered a general welfare call on an intoxicated man hanging out in a field off Coulthard Lane. There, he told the jury Tuesday, he drove up alone in his police cruiser with only his headlights and a floodlight on. He saw Brewer behind a large tree in a low bowl area of the field. He parked about 50 feet from the tree and got out of his vehicle. He said he announced his identity over his public address system and for the man to come out from behind the tree. Brewer, he said, immediately began to yell that he had guns and would kill "all you sons of bitches." He said he then presented himself from low and behind the tree as having some kind of "shoulder-fired weapon." Brewer then retreated back behind the tree.
Rodgers testified that he quickly got back to his car and laid in the seat, called dispatch for backup. "I was thinking I was about to be shot. I was in fear of my life."
Rodgers explained how he maneuvered himself to the edge of the driver's side door and watched Brewer move around the tree. Each time, said Rodgers, Brewer was more agitated and was aiming the weapon at the cruiser and at Rodgers.
The third time he came around, Rodgers said he decided he would take the shot.
Brewer was found not to have a weapon. His prosthetic leg was later found leaning against the tree. There were no witnesses to the confrontation.
In Wednesday testimony, Lexington assistant police chief Michael Bosse, a former internal affairs investigator and police trainer, backed Rodgers' claim that he was justified in his actions.
He explained that officers are taught to "be steadfast in the face of adversity," have no duty to retreat and are under no obligation to wait to be fired upon before firing.