BRYAN, Texas — The second day of trial for the State of Texas versus Dabrett Black continued Tuesday with autopsy photos of Trooper Damon Allen, ballistic evidence, interrogation footage, and dashcam footage.
The morning opened with witness testimony from an officer who responded to the scene on Nov. 23, 2017.
Madison County Chief Deputy Steve Jeter, a Texas State Trooper at the time, testified that he spoke directly with Black on scene shortly after the defendant was apprehended.
Black had been bitten by a police K9 and shot in the leg, and was secured to an EMS gurney with handcuffs.
Jeter explained that he had approached Black and asked him if he was still in possession of a firearm.
Jeter said Black responded that he “would have kept shooting if [he] still had it.”
Black’s defense team objected to this witness testimony, as Jeter confirmed he had not mirandized Black at the time he asked the question.
Jeter told the defense he had asked this question, not to interrogate Black, but to ensure the scene was safe.
The objection was overruled.
The jury learned that Black shot Allen with a rifle and attached canister.
Six of 72 Red Army 7.62 bullets were not present in the canister when the gun was recovered.
Forensic scientist Nathan Tunnell testified that six shell casings collected at the crime scene matched Black’s rifle.
Jeter confirmed that officers pursuing Black had shot at the suspect vehicle exactly 34 times.
The defense expressed concern that a jury member, whose ex-spouse is a police officer, had been the subject of a recent social media post. The judge and legal teams discussed how a friend of the juror had posted to social media that the ex-spouse had recently been shot. The friend speculated in their post that the juror must be emotional at this trial due to that circumstance.
The juror was ultimately allowed to remain in court.
The courtroom viewed footage from Black’s first interrogation, which took place immediately following his arrest and hospital release. Texas Ranger Jake Burson, lead investigator for the case, had questioned Black once the defendant was transported from CHI St. Joseph Hospital in Bryan to the Brazos County Detention Center.
In the 2017 interrogation footage, Black expressed his frustration with the healthcare options he’d been denied, stressing his struggle with paranoia, memory loss, traumatic flashbacks, and anxiety.
“I can wake up any damn day and don’t know what the f*** happened,” he said.
When asked what led to Black’s circumstances at the Brazos County jail, Black had responded,
“I wanted to go home, he wanted to arrest me, and I saw another car coming.”
Black elaborated that he shot Trooper Allen as Allen was conducting the traffic stop, because Black saw a second police car approach, and he believed that meant Allen perceived him as a threat.
“Another day in a Black man’s life,” Black had said. “I’m a threat to society.”
Throughout the interrogation footage, the defendant reiterated his sense of confusion and stress in navigating life.
He compared his anxiety to being a bird locked in a cage that is constantly shaken. He also made reference to Iraq and his military service. He lamented that he didn't want to be perceived as a monster, but couldn't determine whether his own thought process was fully human.
“I’ve been scared of myself since 2011, maybe 2012,” he’d said. “Really. And this was without knowing I was walking around with brain damage.”
Day 2 concluded with footage from Trooper Allen’s dashcam.
The footage showed Allen performing a traffic stop on Interstate 45, and a non-combative verbal exchange between Allen and Black. Black apologized for speeding, and Allen informed him he would be receiving a ticket for traveling 100 miles per hour in his vehicle.
Allen retreated to his patrol car, sat in the driver’s seat, and spoke with dispatchers as he entered Black’s information into his in-car computer.
Minutes later, Black is seen emerging from his vehicle and firing multiple times into Allen’s windshield.
Ranger Burson took the stand to answer questions about both videos presented. He commented that Allen had, in his professional opinion, conducted the traffic stop appropriately. He noted that Black was wanted at the time of the traffic stop for at least one warrant, and said it was appropriate for a second officer to approach the scene.
He also surmised, from viewing the dashcam footage, that Black’s rifle had jammed after several shots.
The defense questioned Burson about his conduct in interrogating Black, stating the interview had continued long after Black had shared his mental health status, expressed his motive, and confessed to the crime.
They argued that as Black shifted his gaze around the room during the interrogation, he appeared to be speaking to people who were not present.
The trial is expected to last several days.