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Charges stand against man shot by W.Va. cops

April 12, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A magistrate ruled Tuesday there was probable cause to charge a Philadelphia man with two counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at two state troopers.

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The case will be sent to a grand jury. The next Berkeley County grand jury will convene in May.

Berkeley County Magistrate Joan Bragg also denied a defense motion to lower Shimek Seabrook's bail from $300,000 to $100,000. Seabrook was being held in the Eastern Regional Jail Tuesday.

The prosecution and the defense tangled over whether the trooper who shot Seabrook, testifying as a witness, should be allowed to see the defendant in court.

West Virginia State Police Senior Trooper John Droppleman was the only witness to testify during Tuesday's preliminary hearing for Seabrook, 25.

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Droppleman shot Seabrook twice after being called to the Berkeley Gardens apartment complex on March 13 after troopers investigating possible drug trafficking encountered gunfire in the parking lot.

After shots were fired at Droppleman and Senior Trooper T.C. Kearns, Droppleman fired at Seabrook twice, missing both times, police said. Droppleman then chased Seabrook into building 403, where he shot Seabrook twice, according to police.

Berkeley County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gregory Jones questioned Droppleman about the incident, then asked the trooper to describe the man he shot.

For much of the hearing, Seabrook waited in a holding area off the courtroom. But after Droppleman gave a physical description, Jones asked that Seabrook be brought into the room so Droppleman could identify him.

Kevin D. Mills, Seabrook's attorney, objected. He said that Droppleman clearly would pick out a man in an orange prison jumpsuit sitting at the defense table as the man he shot.

Mills argued that a defendant has a right to refuse being in the courtroom and called it "a charade of identification."

Bragg allowed Mills to cross-examine Droppleman, then granted Jones' request for Seabrook to be in court. Droppleman pointed him out as the same person he had described and encountered that night.

Seabrook's left arm was in a blue sling. He used his right hand to hold up his left.

During cross-examination, at Mills' request, Droppleman drew the layout of Berkeley Gardens and the adjacent complex, Roberts Gardens, on a small chalkboard.

Droppleman said he and Kearns walked through Roberts Gardens because Kearns had seen someone he considered suspicious under a stairwell.

On their way, the troopers saw another man at a playground who seemed to be avoiding them, Droppleman testified.

Mills asked if the man was black, and Droppleman said he was.

When Mills asked if the man under the stairwell was black, Droppleman said Kearns hadn't told him.

"We shouldn't make this a race issue, Mr. Mills," Droppleman added.

Mills said he wasn't.

Droppleman testified that he and Kearns were at the corner of building 310 at Roberts Gardens when they heard two gunshots that sounded close and ran toward the noise.

Droppleman said he saw a man fire three or four times at two other people hiding behind a car.

Droppleman said that after he identified himself as a trooper and ordered the man to drop his gun, the man hesitated briefly, then shot at the troopers and ran, waving a handgun.

After a chase through the parking lot, the man ran into building 403 of Berkeley Gardens, according to Droppleman, who said he shot once at the man in the hallway because he was worried he might try to take hostages.

The man ran into the laundry room at the end of the hallway and started climbing out the window, Droppleman said.

Droppleman said he again told the man to stop and saw him start to turn his head and right arm back toward the trooper, so Droppleman shot again, then ducked behind a door frame.

The man made it out the window but was found lying on the ground about 30 feet away, Droppleman said.

The trooper said he administered first aid until paramedics arrived.

Police said that Droppleman shot Seabrook once in the leg and once in the shoulder. Seabrook was released from City Hospital on March 21.

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