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Excessive-force trial begins in Bourbon shooting

A Bourbon County man called police near nightfall on Sept. 7, 2007, to complain about a someone he said had been drinking and was sitting under a tree in his neighbor's field, "waiting for someone to pick him up."

Sheriff's deputies responded to the call. On Monday, eight jurors in U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman's courtroom heard much of what happened next: frantic radio traffic, followed by the shooting of an unarmed man who was lying down with his unattached prosthetic leg propped against the tree.

Robert Brewer, 37, suffered life-threatening injuries when a bullet from Deputy Ed Rodgers' service revolver hit Brewer's chest, neck and left forearm.

Brewer died in February, but his widow, Rhonda, was in court Monday as attorneys Ed Cooley and John Hafner began their civil case, alleging that Rodgers violated Brewer's rights by using excessive force.

The lawsuit, filed against Rodgers, Deputy Robert Guy Turner and Sheriff Mark Matthews, individually and as sheriff, alleges that Rodgers and Turner, the second deputy to arrive on the scene, showed deliberate indifference to Brewer's need for medical treatment.

The most riveting testimony came from Turner, who was asked to recount over and over the first things he saw and said when he approached the scene. He said he found Rodgers standing "talking or yelling" at Brewer, who was bleeding profusely.

Turner told the jury he had been only a quarter-mile from the farm where the shooting occurred when he heard Rodgers report over his radio: "I'm staring down the barrel of a rifle."

Turner said he told the dispatchers he would be there "in 10 seconds."

Cooley questioned the amount of time, noting the route Turner had to take to the scene, and the lack of lights there.

Turner said he could not immediately see the tree or the men and had to look for them "by looking down into a field." He said he did see a blue light.

Turner said he saw Rodgers' weapon still drawn and asked Rodgers if he was OK. Finding that he was, he told Rodgers to go back to the car and stay there. "He didn't need to be involved in the scene anymore."

Turner said he looked for a gun but found none. He later said that Rodgers had said near the beginning of the conversation that what he had called a rifle had been a tree branch.

Cooley grilled Turner, asking whether he ever offered first aid to Brewer, even after Brewer said that he was dying and asked Turner to tell his wife and children that he loved them.

"No, sir, I did not. I was ungloved," Turner said.

Defendants' attorney Shelby Kinkead Jr. asked Turner if he was the one who had called to check on the progress of the ambulance. He had. It was three to four minutes, Turner estimated, between the time he arrived and the time the ambulance arrived to "scoop and go" with Brewer.

When attorneys cross-examined Matthews, the sheriff, he explained his policy of letting the Kentucky State Police handle the post-shooting investigation of Rodgers, as Matthews wished to appear absolutely impartial.

Matthews said he continues to think his officers acted according to standard procedure.

Testimony is scheduled to continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

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