Witness Saw Man Kick & Punch, then Shoot Officer
Posted April 6, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — A witness testified Tuesday she saw a man kick and punch a police officer repeatedly beside a busy interstate, then shoot the policeman after he fell to the ground.
The testimony came during the second day of the trial of Tilmon and Kevin Golphin, brothers charged in the slayings along Interstate 95 last Sept. 23. They could face the death penalty if convicted of first-degree murder charges.
``I told my niece, `Oh, my God, I think he shot him', because the officer never got back up," Janice Hocutt, of Raleigh, said. ``And then I remember thinking how slowly the man was walking. I thought, `He's just taking his time.'''
Hocutt said she and her niece were southbound on I-95 the day Highway Patrol Trooper Ed Lowry, 47, and Cumberland County Sheriff's Cpl. David Hathcock, 57, were killed.
She pulled over when she saw a man struggling with an officer between a police car and a green Toyota off the northbound lane. Getting out of her car to watch, Hocutt testified she saw the officer spray something into the face of the man, who was wearing a brown, hooded jacket and baggy pants.
``I told my niece, 'Look at that poor black guy getting arrested,'' Hocutt testified. ``I said, 'Where'd that dirt come from?' and my niece said, `That's not dirt, it's Mace.'''
Hocutt said she saw the officer suddenly drop to the ground. The man then approached the downed officer and began kicking him and punching him repeatedly, she said. The man made a motion with his hand over the officer, she said, and then walked calmly back to the Toyota.
When Assistant District Attorney Margaret Russ asked Hocutt if she had seen the man's face, she pointed to Tilmon Golphin in the courtroom.
Golphin wore a black cotton button-down shirt with a T-shirt underneath and baggy black pants. His expression changed little when Hocutt identified him.
Hocutt was the last of four motorists called by the prosecution who testified they drove past the shooting scene.
Marla McDowell, a Maryland native who was driving home on northbound I-95, said she saw a state trooper struggling with a man behind his car in another altercation.
McDowell said the officer was on top of the man and trying to handcuff him, ``but it looked like the officer was just about to lose control of the situation.''
James Rogers was driving a truck onto I-95 from an entrance ramp off N.C. 24 and Walter Pearce was northbound on I-95 when they saw an officer trying to handcuff a man.
The testimony supports a defense contention Monday that the shootings followed a struggle between the brothers and the officers. Tilmon Golphin admitted Monday that he fired shots from a Chinese-made SKS rifle that hit Lowry and Hathcock. But defense attorneys said Monday the shootings occurred in a few panicked moments and were not premeditated.
Earlier Tuesday, radio dispatchers from the state Highway Patrol and the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department recalled the communications between officers before the shootings.
Bobby Owens, a Highway Patrol shift supervisor in Elizabethtown, said Lowry called in about five minutes before the shootings and said he had pulled over a car he suspected might be stolen.
Owens' voice cracked as he told jurors that when Lowry asked for backup, Owens told him all the Highway Patrol units in the area were busy. A few minutes later, Lowry told Owens he believed the car's occupants were armed.
Between the calls, Owens asked the sheriff's department for help.
Susan Gillis, a Cumberland County dispatcher, said the first call for help came from the Highway Patrol at 12:29 p.m. She said Hathcock was the closest deputy to the scene and was dispatched at 12:30 p.m. Hathcock arrived at 12:34 p.m., Gillis said. She tried unsuccessfully to reach him over the next four minutes, she said.
Both dispatchers said they received calls at 12:39 p.m. that the officers had been shot and killed. and Wire Reports