Trial for accused cop killer underway

April 29, 2008 4:06:19 AM PDT
Testimony began today in the trial of a man accused of shooting and killing a Houston police officer, even after he had been handcuffed and placed in the back of the officer's car. Prosecutors say Juan Quintero killed HPD Officer Rodney Johnson in cold blood, but defense attorneys say Quintero have a very different explanation.

"What kind of officer runs into a burning building to save people or dives into water to save a drowning victim who's handicapped," said prosecutor John Jordan to jurors Monday.

The prosecution painted a word picture of Rodney Johnson, dedicated father, husband and police officer whose life abruptly ended a year and a half ago. That's when he arrested Juan Quintero on a traffic stop near Hobby Airport.

"Like that, he's ambushed," said Jordan, with a loud clap of his hands. "Shot multiple times in the back of the head."

Juan Quintero was locked in the back of Johnson's patrol car. A pat down had failed to detect a 9mm pistol prosecutors say was tucked into the waist of Quintero's pants.

He fired, according to police, several times even while handcuffed. He even fired at a wrecker driver who saw Johnson slumped over in his patrol car.

Quintero, witnesses say, was screaming racial slurs and profanities.

A mock-up of the patrol unit was brought into court Monday. The wrecker driver who called for help showed the jury where he saw Johnson in the blood-soaked car and where Quintero was struggling to get out.

Quintero's lawyers are claiming, though, he had a head injury as a child and was an alcoholic since the age of eight. The plea is not guilty by reason of insanity.

"Cold-blooded killer is nice on a bumper sticker and it's an easy answer, but that's not what the evidence in this case is going to show," said David Lang, Quintero's attorney.

The trial is expected to last three to four weeks. Among those expected to testify are Officer Johnson's wife, Chief Hurtt and about a dozen other officers and expert witnesses on both sides.M

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

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