Senior Airman Elio Carrion said he used to be "pro-cop," but all that has changed since he was shot three times by a sheriff’s deputy, who was cleared of wrongdoing by a jury in the highly publicized case.
In his first public statement since the June 28 verdict, Carrion admitted to TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira that he did do some things wrong on the January 2006 night when former San Bernardino County Deputy Sheriff Ivory Webb shot Carrion as he was attempting to obey the officer’s order to stand up.
Carrion had been a passenger in a Corvette driven by a friend who had crashed after leading Webb on a 100-mph chase through residential neighborhoods in the town of Chino, Calif. A video shot by a witness shows the officer and Carrion, who is on the ground outside the car, cursing at each other. The officer orders Carrion to stand, and as he is complying, Webb shoots him three times.
"Yes," Carrion replied when Vieira asked "Do you think you did anything wrong that night?" "When I used profanity against him, that was wrong." But, he continued, "when he approached us, he was out of control, using profanity a lot, saying the F-word a lot, like, ‘You, shut the F up.’ I was trying to calm him down because he seemed out of control."
He said that Webb seemed to calm down when Carrion cursed back at him.
But Carrion, who admitted that he had been drinking, maintained as he has all along that he did nothing else that warranted being shot. And, he said, as a military policeman who served six months in Iraq, "I used to be pro-cop. But now, since this happened ... It’s very hard to tell who you can trust these days."
Although he was acquitted of charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a weapon, Webb, who was dismissed from his job, still could face federal charges of violating Carrion’s civil rights. Carrion is also pursuing a civil case against Webb.
Webb maintained that he thought Carrion was reaching into his jacket as he attempted to push himself up. In an earlier appearance on TODAY, Webb said, "Law enforcement officers are trained to assume that suspects are dangerous and have weapons."
"I was on the ground. I pushed my upper body up," Carrion told Vieira as the video of the shooting ran on a split screen. "The jacket — it has no pockets, it has no zipper. It’s a pullover jacket ... I had no pockets. I had no weapon."
Vieira asked Carrion to put himself in Webb’s shoes. "You are chasing after a car that’s going 100 miles per hour, your adrenaline is going, there are two of you in the car. One officer. Might you not respond somewhat the way he did?" she asked.
"No," the military policeman said. "I would not have approached the vehicle at all. We’re trained to wait for backup, no matter how long it takes. Because if he [encountered] two suspects like that — who knows what could happen? The officer could be hurt."
‘Mystified by the verdict’
Carrion said he is mystified by the verdict. "I don’t know how the jury found that it was justified. Clear as day, he said twice, ‘Get up, get up.’ And then I repeated, ‘I’m going to get up now.’ I did not even get up fully. I pushed my upper body up and then I got shot three times and fell back."
Carrion, 23, was hit in the chest, behind the left shoulder and in the left femur. He re-enlisted in the Air Force and is confined to desk duty at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana because of his injuries. On Thursday, he was presented the Army Commendation Medal for work performed in Iraq.
"I can’t run, do sports, jump. It’s very hard to kneel down, lay on the ground, stuff like that," he said. Carrion is married and has a young daughter.
After the verdict, Carrion did not speak to anyone about it, including his wife. Asked why he chose to speak out now, he replied, "I just think it’s the right time now. The defense attorney has been portraying me as a drunk, defiant of the law — stuff like that. I just wanted to come out and say that’s totally false."