Instead of seeing a drug suspect's hands in the air, a State Police investigator testified Tuesday that he saw a gun in the suspect's hands and knew he'd have to shoot him.
"It's kind of a surreal experience," Senior Investigator Kevin Ring said of the Aug. 11, 2011, confrontation, with emotion in his voice. "You can't unshoot somebody. I knew what I was about to do."
Ring was the last witness at the trial of Nicholas Hansen, 23, of Farmingville. Hansen, who was shot four times, is charged with the attempted murder of Ring. He also faces drug and weapons charges.
Ring was part of a task force that was planning to arrest Hansen as soon as a cocaine deal with an undercover officer was completed.
He testified about 10 feet from Hansen, roughly the same distance that separated them when they shot at each other that evening. Ring was not hit. More than 20 state police crowded state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho's courtroom to hear Ring testify.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Beth Creighton, Ring said he could tell Hansen was agitated even before his unmarked minivan came to a stop in the parking lot of the Mobil gas station at Exit 61. Normally, he said he'd identify himself as a police officer, but Hansen's demeanor led him to draw his gun instead.
Hansen scrambled out of his car, pointed his gun at Ring and shouted, "Just kill me! Just kill me!" Ring said he hesitated for a second, then had no choice but to fire.
"When you level a firearm at another human being, you forfeit your right to safety," he said of Hansen. "I had to act. The death of innocents could result [otherwise]."
Ring said he saw flashes from the muzzle of Hansen's gun. "I was aware I could be experiencing the last moments of my life," he said. "I came close to getting shot in the face."
During cross-examination, defense attorney William Keahon reviewed a video of the shooting frame by frame with Ring. The video shows Ring in a firing position before Hansen is out of his car, but Ring said Hansen fired first.
Although Ring said he had no time to display his police shield or identify himself as police, Hansen's words made it clear that he knew this was an arrest and not a robbery, as Keahon had suggested.
"Nobody would rather die than get robbed," Ring said. "His statement is saying he knew we were cops."
Earlier Tuesday, State Police Senior Investigator Thomas Hughes testified that he questioned Hansen that night at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Hansen told him he got his gun from under his leg after he saw someone get out of a minivan with a gun. Hansen didn't recall firing the gun and didn't know how many shots he fired, Hughes said.