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Trial concluding for Hagerstown man accused of firing at police

October 18, 2012|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Neil LaPine is led to a police cruiser by Hagerstown City Police Sgt. John Lehman after he barricaded himself inside a Little Hayden Circle home on Friday.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

A jury is expected to begin deliberations Friday in Washington County Circuit Court in the case of a Hagerstown man accused of firing a shot at police officers during a May standoff at his home.   

The trial of Neil Shawn LaPine, 49, of 12962 Little Hayden Circle, began Thursday before Judge Donald E. Beachley. LaPine is charged with four counts each of first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment, two counts of discharging a firearm within city limits and one count of use of a handgun in a crime of violence.

LaPine was taken into custody shortly after 3 p.m. on May 18 after an incident that began about three hours earlier. The state said LaPine fired intentionally, while the defense told jurors LaPine fired the handgun accidentally as he tripped over a rug.

In his opening statement, Deputy State’s Attorney Joseph Michael told the jury that LaPine was talking on the telephone with relatives and “making statements he might harm himself.” That prompted a relative to call police, who went to his house to check on his well-being, he said.

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Police arrived and tried to speak with LaPine, but “the communications from inside were hostile.” Michael said. Officers then heard a shot from inside, Michael said.

Michael also told jurors in his opening statement that there was no physical evidence - a shell casing or bullet hole - for that first shot.

Later, a police negotiator got LaPine to come out his front door, but he would not comply with officers’ orders and a “less-than-lethal” round from a 40-millimeter weapon was fired to stun him, Michael said.

Instead, LaPine went back inside his house and, as Special Response Teams approached his door, a second shot was fired through the door, Michael said.

About an hour after that, LaPine surrendered to police, Michael said.

“Mr. LaPine ... as a result of a breakup with a girlfriend and other factors in his life, was extremely depressed,” defense attorney John Salvatore told the jury. “He was basically just out there in a trance ... He had no intention of hurting anyone else.”

“He will tell you there was not a first shot” and that there was “zero evidence” a first one was fired, Salvatore said.

After being shot with the round - composed of a material designed to disintegrate on impact and release pepper spray - LaPine retreated into his house and got a weapon, Salvatore said.

As LaPine backed away from his front door “he tripped over a rug and the gun discharged,” Salvatore told the jury.

The jury heard from several police officers involved in the incident and the defense called LaPine to the stand late Thursday afternoon. One more defense witness was to testify Friday, Salvatore told Beachley.

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