Darrell Fuller goes on trial in slaying of Nassau Officer Arthur Lopez
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Nassau County Police Officer Arthur Lopez had a Taser out as he approached Darrell Fuller, but the man who had just fled an accident scene pointed a pistol at the cop's chest and fired, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.
"Darrell Fuller paid him back with a bullet to the heart," Assistant District Attorney Mitchell Benson said as Fuller's first-degree murder trial began in an emotionally charged Mineola courtroom where victims' family members wept.
The Queens man is facing life in prison without parole if jurors convict him in the Oct. 23, 2012, slayings of Lopez and Raymond Facey, 58, of Brooklyn.
Defense attorney Kenneth St. Bernard called on jurors in his opening statement to hold prosecutors to their burden of proving his client's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Authorities have alleged Fuller, 34, of St. Albans, Queens, shot Lopez at 241st Street and Jamaica Avenue at the Nassau-Queens border after the officer and his partner pursued him when he drove off from a crash.
After the deadly confrontation, authorities claim, Fuller drove a short way south on the Cross Island Parkway before shooting Facey, ditching his disabled Honda Accord, and escaping the area in the Brooklyn man's Toyota Camry.
Lopez's mother, Mirella Lopez, and sister, Charo Ramos, wiped away tears in court as the prosecutor described how the officer never had a chance to return the gunfire that exploded from Fuller's semiautomatic Ruger.
Lopez, 29, of Babylon Village, was an 8-year veteran of the Nassau police force and a member of its elite Emergency Service Unit.
"All he could say was 'I'm shot,' " Benson told jurors of the officer's collapse.
But Fuller "wasn't finished killing that day" after gunning down Lopez, the prosecutor said of the defendant.
He said Fuller "couldn't afford scrutiny" from police after the first accident because he was on parole and had a loaded gun in the car, a discovery that would have put him back behind bars.
Benson told jurors that Fuller used the same weapon to end Facey's life minutes later, shooting him twice in the head.
Facey's 23-year-old daughter, Dahlia Kong, let out wails and had to leave the courtroom as the prosecutor described the slaying.
The construction worker who emigrated from Jamaica had pulled off the parkway to speak to Kong about buying plane tickets home, the prosecutor told jurors.
Kong later described the phone conversation, testifying that she heard him say something unrelated to their talk.
"I heard him pose a question. He asked 'Is somebody chasing you? Who's chasing you?' And after that, I didn't hear anything else," Kong said.
Benson said that besides Lopez's police partner, five other witnesses -- including an unarmed, off-duty NYPD officer who followed the suspect -- later picked Fuller out of a lineup.
"There is a massive amount of evidence in this case that implicates the defendant," the prosecutor said.
He cited DNA test results, ballistics and videos -- including one he said showed Fuller hid in a preschool during part of the police manhunt for him.
Benson also told jurors that in an attempt to look like the third victim in the case, Fuller had a friend shoot him in the arm and leg.
But St. Bernard reminded jurors that they had promised to scrutinize every witness.
"Don't be afraid. No matter where this evidence leads you, you must follow it," the Mineola attorney said.
St. Bernard argued it didn't make sense that Fuller -- who had a driver's license and insurance -- would leave the crash scene because he was on parole, saying police don't search cars after accidents.
Opening statements in the trial, which is expected to last several weeks, were delayed until Monday afternoon after acting state Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter said he was awaiting an appellate court's ruling on a defense motion for a change of venue.
While awaiting that ruling on that motion -- which failed -- Facey's widow, June Facey, spoke of her late husband, whose smiling face beamed out from memorial buttons on her blouse.
"He was my all, he was my heart," she said, expressing indifference toward Fuller.
June Facey said that every day, it's gotten more difficult for her to live in her house alone, and that loved ones still struggle with grief and hurt.
"There is no justice for my husband or for me or the rest of the family. The only justice? If he had left my husband alone," the widow said of Fuller.