TACOMA - Washington State Patrol Trooper Scott Johnson had a name written on his palm when he was shot in the head on a Long Beach street in February.
Prosecutors say that name, "Marty," was the name of his attacker.
State Attorney General's Office lawyers introduced that evidence and other arguments last Tuesday in the first day of the trial of Martin A. Jones. The 46-year-old Seaview man faces one count of first-degree attempted murder. He has denied any involvement in the shooting.
Both sides made opening statements in Pierce County Superior Court last week, launching four weeks of testimony before a 12-person jury plus four alternates. Johnson, now sheriff of Pacific County, did not attend, but is expected to testify later.
On Monday of this week, Ocean Park tow truck driver George Hill was on the witness stand, and described what he saw during the shooting.
Tow truck driver's testimony
Hill told the jury he joined Johnson along Highway 103 at about 12:40 a.m. to help impound a minivan after the driver - the defendant's wife - was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
The tow truck driver said he first saw the shooter under a nearby streetlight. As Hill continued to set up his truck for the tow, the unidentified man asked him what he was doing.
"DUI impound," Hill answered as the man walked off. "I didn't really pay any attention to him. I went back to doing my job."
Moments later, he watched the man wrap his left arm around Johnson from behind and put a gun to the base of his skull. The man fired one shot and fled.
"From out of nowhere this guy was standing behind Scott," he said. "It happened so fast."
Hill said he caught an upward view of the shooter's face. He noted the man's mouth was curled into a "sort of smirk."
"I heard like a popping noise and I could smell gunpowder," Hill said, adding, "I took off chasing him, ... He spun around. ... I heard a second pop noise."
Hill said he watched the injured Johnson take aim with his sidearm and fire two shots, missing the suspect. As Hill rushed to call emergency dispatchers on his cell phone, he turned on his pocket-sized Flip video camera.
Defense attorney David Allen challenged Hill's descriptions in court Monday, saying Hill provided several different descriptions in the days following the shooting. His descriptions included olive skin and a cleft chin, which do not match Jones.
See the Chinook Observer's online edition and next week's paper for more trial coverage.
Prosecution outlines case
Assistant Attorney General Melanie Tratnik is leading the case in place of the Pacific County prosecuting attorney.
Pointing to a map last Tuesday, she said, "It was here in Pacific County on Feb. 13, 2010, almost at the end of his shift, that the worst fear of every law enforcement officer came true. Trooper Johnson was shot in the back of the head, execution style. Miraculously, Trooper Johnson survived. He survived to ultimately identify the man who shot him."
Investigators report another trooper had stopped Jones wife, Susan, on suspicion of drunken driving along Highway 103 and Johnson was processing her minivan for impound shortly before 1 a.m. when a man grabbed him from behind, put a gun to the base of his skull and fired one shot.
Evidence shows Johnson had written the defendant's first name, Marty, on his hand before the shooting as a contact to pick up the minivan. Johnson has since identified Jones as the shooter, saying Jones became upset when he walked by the minivan getting towed and returned a few minutes later to attack him.
Seattle defense attorney David Allen described Jones as a dedicated father and heavy machinery operator who has become the innocent victim of a mistaken identification made amid the confusion of a massive manhunt.
"Marty Jones did not shoot Trooper, now sheriff, Johnson," Allen said. "Marty Jones was not involved in any way. He did not leave his house at all that evening. He was at home."
Allen argued Jones has several close relatives serving in law enforcement and an overall positive relationship with police officers. The attorney said Jones has also cooperated with the investigation.
While Trooper Johnson has a long, distinguished career, Allen said he is still capable of making a mistake. The attorney argued Jones could not have shot the trooper.
"At the end of this case ... you'll also be convinced that he is innocent," he said.
Prosecutors argued Johnson is "100 percent certain" that Jones is the man that walked by then returned to shoot him. Johnson has said he saw Jones both before the shooting and when the shooter ran back to the scene shortly after wounding him.
A suspect bullet shell
Tratnik said one of the most concrete links to Jones is a .22 short caliber bullet casing found at the scene of the shooting. She argued the shell has the same brand, style and markings as other .22 bullets found in the Jones home.
"They never did find the gun," she noted.
But State Crime Lab analysts compared the shell at the scene to the bullets in Jones' house in Seaview. She said the suspect casing was punched by the same machine, part of the same batch, as many of the bullets found at the home. All of the bullets were manufactured in July 1999.
Allen argues the shell may not be related to the shooting at all. It could have been there for years.
But he also argues Johnson was not shot by a typical firearm at all. He argues ballistic and medical evidence indicate Johnson was likely shot with a high-powered air pistol.
"He (Johnson) was not shot with a .22 pistol," he told the jury.
Allen argued investigators never found other shells despite Johnson and the tow truck driver at the scene describing multiple shots from the attacker. He said X-rays also give an outline of a projectile that looks more like a pellet than a bullet fragment.
Allen said cell phone records will also show Jones never left his home, 1.3 miles from the scene of the shooting. He also argued Jones was identified amid several different descriptions given by witnesses early in the manhunt.
The attorney said Jones became a suspect because Johnson was obsessed with finding the man whose name he had written on his hand. Once Johnson became convinced Jones was the shooter, there was no going back.
Tratnik argued Jones became a suspect because of suspicious inconsistencies in behavior and other evidence pointing to him. One of those indicators was a K-9 dog that tracked from the shooting scene to within a block of the Jones home.
She said Johnson's positive identification of the shooter is just the foundation of several layers of proof incriminating Jones.
"The evidence in this trial will show that (Johnson) is correct," she said.
The trial was scheduled to continue for up to three more weeks. Johnson is expected to testify toward the end of the prosecution's case.