The issue of whether a Farmingville man who shot at a State Police investigator during a drug bust is guilty of attempted murder depends on what the man was thinking during the August 2011 confrontation, the judge and attorneys on both sides of the case said Wednesday.
"The issue is as simple as this: If he did not believe they were police officers and his belief was reasonable, he's justified" in shooting, state Supreme Court Justice Fernando Camacho said outside the jury's presence during a legal argument before closing arguments.
Nicholas Hansen, 23, is charged with the attempted murder of Senior Investigator Kevin Ring as well as gun and drug charges.
In their closings, defense attorney William Keahon and Assistant District Attorney Beth Creighton tried to help jurors conclude what Hansen must have been thinking when Ring emerged from an unmarked minivan with no police identification and pointed his gun at him.
Keahon said Hansen was concerned that he was about to be robbed and had no inkling Ring was a police officer. It doesn't matter if Hansen was mistaken, as long as his belief was reasonable, the attorney said.
"I get it. You don't like drugs, you don't like illegal guns," Keahon said. "But I'm talking about attempted murder. It's piling on."
Keahon said he didn't want to criticize Ring, but added that Ring could have displayed a shield or yelled he was police before opening fire.
Instead, he shouted "Down! Down! Down! Down!" Keahon said that was ambiguous.
Creighton said the words of both men make it clear that Ring was a police officer and that Hansen knew it. Yelling "Down!" is not "the words of a robber just before he shoots you," she said.
Hansen's last words before the gunfire began -- "Kill me! Just kill me!" -- are telling, she said.
"These are not the words of someone who thinks he is about to be robbed," Creighton said. That's what a drug dealer about to get arrested would say before he shoots at a cop, she said.
In the recorded drug deals leading up to the day of the shooting, Creighton said Hansen never expressed concern about being robbed. But he did show several times that he was worried that the undercover officer who was buying his cocaine from could be a cop.
Rather than focus on Ring's actions, Creighton said the jury should "take a look at the person who set this whole thing in motion" by selling cocaine and bringing a loaded gun to the deal.
When Ring and other officers closed in at the gas station off Exit 61 of the Long Island Expressway, Hansen knew who it was, Creighton said.
The jury will begin deliberating Thursday.