The trial of Thomas White, a part-time, small town cop who gunned down a biker named Michael McCloskey last year in Ottawa Hills, Ohio after a routine traffic stop, began yesterday in Toledo.
White is charged with felonious assault with a gun specification. He faces a maximum sentence of eleven years imprisonment. The trial is expected to last all week.
Four witnesses took the stand today including the victim who is now 25. McCloskey (pictured above) has been paralyzed from the waist down since May 23rd, 2009 when White changed his life.
Do Not Exceed 25
McCloskey told the court that it was a Friday night and he was coming home from work. He and a friend named Aaron Snyder were riding their Harley-Davidson motorcycles in Ottawa Hills, near Toledo, about 2:15 am. Dash cam video of the incident shows that both men came to complete stops at a traffic control and then sped out of the intersection.
The complete dash cam video follows this story. The video was played in court yesterday. This copy is courtesy of the Toledo Blade. Be warned that the video begins with a commercial advertisement.
McCloskey testified that because of the noise of the motorcycles he did not immediately hear the police car siren behind him. Nevertheless, both bikes stopped within five seconds of being lit up. The official police report states that the two men were stopped for exceeding the 25-miles-per-hour speed limit. Snyder was also charged with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated, riding with a suspended license and “failure to comply.” All three of those charges were dismissed in February. McCloskey was not cited.
Don’t Mess With White
White emerged from his patrol car with his gun drawn and ordered McCloskey off the bike. White has previously stated that he ordered McCloskey to raise his hands and that when the biker did not immediately comply he felt threatened. Today in court, McCloskey testified “I believe I was in the process of shifting from gear to neutral when I was shot…. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to comply.”
McCloskey was seriously burned by his exhaust pipes when he collapsed and the bike fell on him. Although he was paralyzed he could still feel the hot exhaust burning into him. That burned leg is still injured a year later. It still hurts and it may have to be amputated. Officers on scene refused to move the bike off McCloskey. When Snyder ran to his friend’s side and asked the officers for help lifting the bike the police replied, “He’s your friend. You get the bike off of him.” McCloskey’s screams of pain can be heard on the video.
White’s partner, Christopher Sargent also testified today. He told the jury that White thought “the motorcyclists were messing with him and he wanted to stop them.” He also testified that White later told him that he “hoped he hadn’t fucked up and he didn’t want to end up in jail.”
The Piece Of Work Lawyer
Officer White is represented in this matter by a pettifogger named Jerry Phillips. During his opening statement yesterday, Phillips told the jury White was “doing his job” in a situation that was “tense and fluid.”
At a preliminary hearing last month Phillips tried to seal the video. “We’re concerned about the deprivation of rights to present a full case,” Phillips explained.
Phillips also asserted that White is the real victim. “Obviously, he has to live with the fact that Mr. McCloskey is paralyzed as a result of his actions,” was how Phillips spun that one. “It has a devastating effect on him. I think it’s very difficult to feel responsible for another human being’s suffering.”