Crime

National Guard captain testifies about pain that followed Beer Trappe hit-and-run

Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino testified Wednesday in the Fayette Circuit Court trial of Jarad McCargo. Espino, 44, lost his left leg after a Ford Expedition backed into him and crashed into the corner of The Beer Trappe on Euclid Avenue. McCargo is charged with first-degree assault, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of accident and other offenses. Photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff

gkocher1@herald-leader.com
Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino testified Wednesday in the Fayette Circuit Court trial of Jarad McCargo. Espino, 44, lost his left leg after a Ford Expedition backed into him and crashed into the corner of The Beer Trappe on Euclid Avenue. McCargo is charged with first-degree assault, driving under the influence, leaving the scene of accident and other offenses. Photo taken on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2015. Photo by Greg Kocher | Staff gkocher1@herald-leader.com Lexington Herald-Leader

Army National Guard Capt. Noel Espino testified Wednesday that he was in so much pain after an SUV backed into him last year in Lexington that "I hated my life. I wished I was dead."

Espino, 44, was the sixth of 15 prosecution witnesses to take the stand in the trial of Jarad McCargo, a former Lexington firefighter charged in a hit-and-run crash outside The Beer Trappe on Euclid Avenue on Sept. 19, 2014. The crash resulted in the amputation of the guardsman's left leg.

McCargo, 37, also is charged with leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence, criminal mischief, two counts of misdemeanor assault, and failure to maintain required insurance.

The trial is expected to conclude Thursday. If convicted of first-degree assault, McCargo faces 10 to 20 years in prison.

Espino was talking to his wife on a cell phone when a white SUV trying to parallel park suddenly rushed in reverse, backed over a curb and struck Espino. The crash pushed the guardsman into the right front corner of the bar and covered him with splinters and broken glass. Two other people were also injured.

Espino testified that he doesn't remember the crash, but he said it seemed to him that he was in a dream.

"All I remember is, in that dream, I was in so much pain," Espino said. "It felt like a grindstone turning me into dust."

He said he remembered thinking, "I've got to wake up because this is so painful."

Espino didn't regain consciousness until November at University of Kentucky Chandler Hospital, testified his wife, Rosalie Espino. Her husband was released from the hospital in January, 16 weeks after he was admitted.

The eight women and five men on the jury watched two security-camera videos taken from inside the bar that show a white Ford Expedition attempting to parallel park in front of the bar. The SUV backs up, stops, tentatively moves forward a bit, then suddenly rushes backward and into the corner of the bar, causing a cascade of broken window glass. The SUV then speeds away westbound on Euclid.

Lexington firefighter and paramedic David Waters testified that upon his arrival on the scene, he thought it "might be a situation appropriate for the coroner."

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Dan Laren said in his opening statement that choices have consequences. Referring to McCargo, Laren said, "It was this man's choices that have brought him here. ...This man's choices, among other things, cost Capt. Espino his leg."

Forensic toxicologist Edward Barbieri testified that McCargo had a blood-alcohol level of 0.122 percent. The legal limit is 0.10 percent.

Laren said he will ask the jury to convict McCargo of first-degree assault because the defendant manifested "extreme indifference to the value of human life."

But defense attorney Rawl Kazee said in his opening statement that the evidence will show "that this is not assault in the first degree. The evidence will show this was an accident. That's the focus of this trial."

Kazee asked Lexington police Officer Brandon Muravchick, a member of the department's collision reconstruction unit, if there was any evidence that the crash was "done intentionally."

"No, not from my investigation," Muravchick said.

But on redirect examination, Laren asked: "Do you believe it was the intent of the driver to flee the scene?"

"Yes, I do," Muravchick said.

McCargo was a Lexington firefighter at the time of the crash. He was fired shortly after he pleaded not guilty to the charges in district court.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. Thursday before Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell.

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