Whether it was the distraction of emotion, grieving or something much worse, Revere Police Officer William Soto just could not get the sequence straight on the witness stand last Thursday and Friday when he attempted to recount the exact moment that Officer Dan Talbot was shot.
Soto – Talbot’s best friend since their teen years and the person in closest proximity to him during the shooting – testified for the prosecution in the ongoing trial last week. And while the prosecution framed him as a grieving friend who was caught in an argument that unnecessarily escalated, the defense did significant damage to his testimony by showing he changed his story over time and by picking holes in his accounting of the events – even exposing the fact that he asked for a union representative and a lawyer while being questioned by Revere Police brass in the hours after the shooting.
First off, Soto shocked court observers by saying that it was Derek Lodie – a man that was once charged in the case as an accessory but has since taken a plea deal for 8-12 years – who spoke first to the group.
That contradicted what had been said by several witnesses, including Talbot’s fiancée, Connie Bethel.
“He walked towards us with a lean, they call it a gangsta’ lean,” said Soto. “The first thing I heard was ‘BK [expletive deleted] BK’ as he walked past the bleachers. It came from the guy walking down the path.”
He said his group just continued laughing and ignored the guy, but later when Lodie returned, Soto said that the young man continued to taunt the group, saying, “My boys, my boys. What? What?”
At that point, he testified that Talbot got “heated.”
“Connie pleaded with Danny to stop,” he said. “I told him to calm down, relax, and just hang back. He kept moving forward. He was heated and moving towards the individual. I followed behind him. My intention was to make my way over and find out who this individual was and maybe call in a unit and get him out of there.”
Following that, though, Soto could not get the most important sequence straight.
First, he said that he heard a shot and saw a muzzle flash. Then, he observed Officer Talbot draw his weapon and take a firing stance. As Talbot fired, he said, he also fired and then took cover behind a trash can.
However one minute later, it was different – even with the prosecution pitching up watermelons, his story struck out.
“Once they came out – the four individuals – I had my head up,” he said. “Officer Talbot had his weapon out. We were fired upon and I drew my weapon and fired back.”
The prosecutor quickly corrected him, saying that maybe his sequence was off.
“Let’s just get the sequence straight. When did Officer Talbot have his weapon drawn?” asked the prosecutor.
“After the flash; after we were fired upon,” said Soto quickly.
Later, defense attorney Peter Krupp seized upon Soto’s inability to get the account completely consistent.
Krupp: You begin firing back and then take cover behind a garbage can?
Krupp: When you testified before the Grand Jury, you had it reversed, that you took cover and then returned fire?
Soto: I don’t remember.
And then later, “Yesterday you testified that you fired and then took cover,” said Krupp. “This morning you testified that you fired first and then took cover. You told the grand jury you were taking cover as you fired. Which was it?”
“As I was firing, sir, I made my way over to where the barrel was,” said Soto.
In addition, Soto testified about the events after the shooting, in which he took his gun and Talbot’s gun to the Revere Housing Projects – riding with other Revere officers to try and locate a man in a red shirt and dark pants.
They stopped a couple of vehicles, guns drawn, but Soto said he confirmed none were the suspects.
Later, he ended up behind the high school.
After learning of Talbot’s terrible condition, he began to need medical attention, he said. He said his heart was racing.
However, simultaneously, he had also had a conversation with Police Chief Terence Reardon where, during questioning, he asked for a union representative and a lawyer while also handing over one firearm – a firearm that could have been his or Talbot’s.
Meanwhile, as he was being loaded into an ambulance for transport, Revere Police Capts. Michael Murphy and Dennis Collyer tried to question him again. At that point, he once again asked for a union rep and refused to answer any more questions.
As odd as it seems in the midst of a very hot investigation, Soto said he was out of it, felt as though he was being interrogated, and needed it to stop.
“Honestly, I was completely out of it at that time, staring at the ceiling of an ambulance and being interrogated by my captains,” he said. “I felt like I was being interrogated. That’s why I asked for my union representative. I wasn’t going to answer any more questions…I had already told them the same story I had told the chief.”
Meanwhile, the defense also capitalized on some inconsistencies in Soto’s initial descriptions, saying that originally he said that the shooting had come from Lodie, the man in the red shirt.
But most important of all to the defense, he said he could not identify anyone who shot Talbot on that night.
“I just remember putting out a description, sir,” he said. “I don’t remember putting a handgun in anyone’s hand.”
Krupp also asked, “Today, can you identify any of the four individuals that fired the gun that struck Officer Talbot?”
“No, I cannot,” said Soto.
[ Photo Credit http://www.KingCast.net ]