By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
A POLICEMAN wept in courtroom after he was unanimously acquitted of manslaughter by a Supreme Court jury.
Hours after taking the witness stand to give his defence as to why he fired his gun the night of March 27, 2006, 40-year-old Nathaniel Charlow was found not guilty, 9-0, when the jury returned to the courtroom after sunset having being excused by Senior Justice Jon Isaacs to deliberate.
Charlow was accused of manslaughter for the shooting death of 20-year-old Deron Bethel of Pinewood Gardens.
The incident occurred when police entered the Pinewood community to investigate a report of domestic violence against a woman involving the use of a firearm.
Bethel was in his car when plainclothes officers tried to unlock it. One officer opened fire when the car reversed.
Before Charlow took the stand in his defence on Monday, the court heard evidence from Corporals Natasha Johnson and Foster Rolle, who testified that on the evening in question, they went to the Pinewood Gardens home of Warren Rolle who was identified by his former girlfriend.
Upon arrival, they, and officer Charlow pulled in front of a Honda vehicle parked in front of the property. A man in all white got into his vehicle and two men in the yard ran when officers Charlow and Rolle got out of the unmarked police vehicle and identified themselves as police.
Charlow ordered the occupant (Bethel) of the Honda to open the car door. Instead the driver started the car, lunged forward slightly and then reversed and swerved in Charlow’s direction as the police officer tried to gain access to the vehicle.
When Charlow jumped out of the way, he fired a shot.
However, two other prosecution witnesses, Warren Rolle and Frederick Rahming (the two men in the yard) claimed the plainclothed officers did not identify themselves when they went after Bethel and tried to gain access to his car. The number of shots fired was also disputed.
Charlow’s account of the evening in question was no different from his colleagues.
When asked by his lawyer, Murrio Ducille, how he felt when he fired the shot, Charlow said: “I was in fear for my life.”
“What was your intention when you got to Ficus Street?” his lawyer asked.
“To search for a firearm relating to the complaint that was made,” Charlow said.
“Did you know any of the three persons before that day?” Mr Ducille asked. The accused said he did not.
In cross-examination by prosecutor Kristan Stubbs, the prosecutor asked Charlow: “Do you think that situation warranted the use of a gun?”
“Yes, it did,” Charlow answered, adding that “I don’t use a gun unless I’m in fear for my life.”
“Are you aware of what may happen as a result of using your gun?” the prosecutor asked the accused. Charlow said “it depends on the situation.”
The prosecutor then asked the officer how he felt about the result of the action he took that evening when Deron Bethel died.
“I’m always sorry about the loss of anyone’s life, but I had to protect my life,” the accused answered.
“So your life is more important than his life?” the prosecutor asked.
“I didn’t say that,” the officer said.
The prosecutor asked the officer if he considered that the shot he fired could’ve missed and hit his colleague.
“That’s why I only fired one shot,” Charlow said.
“I suggest you only were concerned with stopping this car, by any means necessary,” the prosecutor said.
“I wouldn’t say that,” the accused answered.
After closing submissions by defence counsel and the prosecution, Senior Justice Isaacs summarised the case to the nine-member jury before excusing them to decide on a verdict.
They returned a unanimous not guilty verdict.