The following story is reprinted with permission from the Daily World in Aberdeen, Wash.
TACOMA, Wash. Publicly telling his side of the story for the first time Tuesday, Martin Jones repeatedly testified that he had no involvement in the shooting of a Washington State Patrol trooper along a Long Beach highway last year.
Jones, a 46-year-old heavy machinery operator from Seaview, spent most of the day telling a Pierce County Superior court jury about his life, his feelings on law enforcement and the events of the night that led to his arrest exactly a year earlier. The trial is in its seventh week. It was moved out of Pacific County amid concerns that local publicity would bias a jury.
Despite aggressive questioning from prosecutors, Jones repeatedly refuted accusations he tried to kill Trooper Scott Johnson in the early morning hours of Feb. 13, 2010, in Pacific County. Jones has pleaded not guilty to attempted first-degree murder.
I would never commit such a horrendous crime, he told the jury.
Johnson, who was recently elected sheriff of Pacific County, was impounding a van belonging to Jones wife, Susan, when he was shot in the back of the head along Highway 103.
He has identified Jones as the man who attacked him. But Jones maintains he had a couple drinks with friends that night and went to bed.
"I didn't and I don't have anything to hide," he said.
A comfortable life
Appearing in the beige suit he has worn throughout the seven-week trial, Jones talked about himself as a hard-working family man who grew up in the Tri-Cities area of Washington. He
earned his GED in 1982 and married his high school sweetheart, Susan, the following year. They are still married and have two children and two grandchildren.
Jones said he started out in the restaurant business, later training to operate heavy machinery and later helped his brother start a bail bonds company in the Tri-Cities.
He testified he has several close family members who work in law enforcement.
"When I was younger I thought about it," he said. "When I was a kid I wanted to be a police officer."
Under questioning from his defense attorney David Allen, Jones described himself as a long-time union member and a church-goer. Jones said he still doesn't quite understand how he finds himself facing trial for trying to kill a state trooper. He said he has tried to work with detectives throughout the investigation.
The night of the shooting
The afternoon before the shooting, Feb. 12, 2010, Jones and his wife were in Astoria shopping and doing errands, he said. He said he later took a nap and joined his wife for a couple drinks at a downtown Long Beach restaurant down the road from their home. His son works behind the bar, so they met with a family friend and left late in the evening, he said. Jones said his wife later drove back to the restaurant to pick up a friend, but a State Patrol trooper pulled her over on the way. She was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.
He said she texted him: "Just got pulled over. Pray. Call soon."
Jones said he didn't think much of it, but as the minutes passed without hearing from her he started to become concerned. He made several calls to friends and his son trying to find her, he said.
Prosecutors with the state Attorney General's Office argued cell phone records show Jones making more than a dozen calls as he tried to locate his wife. Jones said he only remembers a few, dozing in-and-out as he tried to reach her. Assistant Attorney General John Hillman alleged Jones became frustrated and set out on foot to find his wife, packing with him a .22 caliber pistol. He argued Jones found Johnson impounding his wife's van and shot him.
"Do you have a temper when you are intoxicated?" Hillman asked.
"No," Jones said, noting he was not drunk that night.
Under repeated questioning, Jones explained he remained home the rest of the night. He made a few more calls until his wife returned, he said, and tried to console her after her arrest.
"I had absolutely no idea that (these events) would pull me into something, that might cause me to spend the rest of my life in prison."
The next morning, Jones woke when a police officer called his house to talk to his wife, he said. He said she told him a police officer had been shot near their van. When she left, Jones said he offered to go with her, but she declined.
Instead, he set out for a walk on the beach. Officers surrounded him and ordered him to the ground.
"Are you aware there was a perimeter around your house?" Allen asked.
"No," Jones answered.
Jones let investigators search his house. When investigators brought by George Hill, the tow truck driver who was at the shooting, Jones stood in his yard to let the witness take a look at him.
Court records stated investigators found .22 caliber bullets of the same make as one spent bullet shell at the scene of the shooting. They found $2,000 in cash in an envelope. Investigators contacted him after midnight on Feb. 15 and asked to speak with him. He drove in to talk to them without knowing Johnson had identified him as the shooter. He was arrested.
"Have you ever owned a .22 caliber pistol?" his attorney, Allen, asked.
"No, I have not," ones said he had never seen Johnson in person until the sheriff testified last week. He noted Johnson looked different than he had pictured him in his head.
"Did you shoot Trooper Scott Johnson?" Allen asked.
"No," Jones replied.
On cross examination from the prosecution, Hillman pointed out the box of
bullets found in Jones house was missing three bullets. Jones denied the bullets were gone. Hillman asked if Jones was accusing investigators of tampering with evidence.
"Are some (bullets) missing because you loaded them into a pistol you used to shoot Trooper Johnson?" he asked.
"That is not correct," Jones answered.
Hillman argued Jones already had several firearms and cited a friend who said Jones owned a .22 handgun. Jones acknowledged owning .22 rifles, but no handguns.
The assistant attorney general said Jones became enraged when he found Johnson towing his wife's car and shot him. He argued Jones then ran home, threw his gun into the ocean and buried his clothes in the nearby sand dunes.
Hillman accused Jones of repeatedly leaving out information and trying to evade questions, later changing his story as investigators drew closer to finding him out.
"That's not true," Jones replied, later adding, "I continued to work with the police."
Jones said he was tired and confused during some of the interrogations, but never meant to deceive anyone. Though Jones testified he was at home all night, Hillman pointed out phone records show Jones did not use his home phone at all for about 30 minutes before and after the shooting. He did not even answer his cell phone at the time of the shooting.
"You couldn't answer your phone because you were trying to kill Trooper Johnson at that time," he argued, finishing, "You shot a Washington State Patrol trooper in the head."
"That's not a question," Jones said, "but I'll try to answer it. That's not what happened."
Trial continues with closing arguments later this week. The jury will then begin deliberations.