Attempted-murder charge at issue in Farmingville drug case
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An attempt to arrest a Farmingville cocaine dealer ended in a wild gunfight at a gas station two years ago, and for that the man deserves to be convicted of attempted murder as well as drug charges, a Suffolk prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.
Nicholas Hansen, 23, had been the target of a heroin task force for almost five months before the Aug. 11, 2011, shooting, Assistant District Attorney Beth Creighton said in her opening statement.
On that day Hansen hoped to sell 100 grams of cocaine, but task force members were going to arrest him as soon as the deal took place at the Mobil station at Exit 61 of the Long Island Expressway, she said.
As Hansen and undercover Suffolk Sheriff's Deputy Investigator Herb Laxton completed their deal while sitting in their cars, an unmarked minivan blocked Hansen from the rear and an unmarked car blocked him from the front. Officers in plain clothes got out and Hansen got out of his car with a .38-caliber revolver, Creighton said.
"Just kill me!" Hansen shouted, according to Creighton. "Just kill me!" Then, from 11 feet away, he fired at an undercover New York State Police trooper at least three times, she said, missing. Officers returned fire, hitting Hansen four times.
In addition to attempted murder, he is on trial in Central Islip before State Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho on gun and drug charges.
In his opening statement, defense attorney William Keahon of Hauppauge didn't dispute that his client was dealing drugs or that he had a gun. But he adamantly insisted that Hansen was not guilty of attempted murder.
Because he had no idea that the men blocking him in and pointing guns at him were police officers, Hansen thought he was being robbed, and therefore was acting lawfully in self-defense when he fired his gun, Keahon said.
"He thought he was going to be shot," he said. "He thought he was going to be killed."
A gas station surveillance video captured the entire incident, and Keahon urged jurors to examine it carefully when it's introduced into evidence during the trial. He told jurors the video shows the plainclothes trooper in a shooting stance before Hansen is out of the car.
Keahon said no officers identified themselves as police or told Hansen he was under arrest, and none displayed shields or wore police jackets. Under those circumstances, Keahon said his client had the right to defend himself against perceived aggressors.
"Is it really unreasonable for Nick to believe that he's about to be a victim of a robbery, of a shooting?" Keahon said.
Laxton began testifying Tuesday and described a series of cocaine deals he said he did with Hansen. Jurors listened to audio recordings of Laxton and a man he identified as Hansen negotiating amounts and prices months before the shooting.