Trial begins for teen accused of firing at deputy

 The man jumping up and down, waving a handgun and yelling might not have recognized Cpl. Chad Cheek as a Rich­mond County sheriff’s deputy, the officer thought, so Cheek hit the blue lights and siren on his unmarked vehicle.

That was when the man turned, pointed a .38-caliber revolver at his face and fired, Cheek said Monday in Richmond County Superior Court. He has no doubt the man was Garrett D. Howard III, he told the jury.

Howard, who turned 17 last week, has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated assault and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.

In her opening statement, Assistant Public Defender Alexia Davis said this was a case of misidentification and that no physical evidence links Howard to the crime.

Cheek testified that he was on his way to an off-duty assignment at the Christmas parade the afternoon of Dec. 3, 2011, when he heard a call on the radio about a suspicious person with a gun near the Cherry Tree Cros­sing public housing complex off 15th Street.

It wasn’t an emergency call and Cheek didn’t intend to respond, but he happened to be driving on 15th Street and saw a man with a gun, Cheek said. He stopped his unmarked pickup about 10 yards behind the man.

The first bullet hit the door jam about a foot from Cheek’s head, Assistant District Attorney Sam Nichol­son said in his opening statement. The second hit the side of the truck just behind the driver’s head rest.

Cheek testified that the man turned and ran after the second shot. Cheek chased him on foot and fired once at the man, who had ignored commands to stop and drop the weapon, before the gunman got away.

Cheek called dispatch and stayed until other officers arrived. He later identified Howard from a lineup containing photos of six young men.

The trial continues Tuesday.

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