Hearing is cut short in police assault case

Joshua Taylor is on tri­al for at­temp­ted murder and as­sault of a po­lice of­ficer after al­legedly pulling a gun on an off-duty of­ficer last April.

A Mu­ni­cip­al Court judge who dis­ap­proved of a de­fense at­tor­ney’s meth­od of ques­tion­ing last week cut short the pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing for a Frank­ford man ac­cused of pulling a gun on an off-duty po­lice of­ficer last April.

Joshua Taylor, 23, of the 4600 block of Worth St., on Thursday was ordered to stand tri­al for at­temp­ted murder, ag­grav­ated as­sault, as­sault of a po­lice of­ficer, car­ry­ing fire­arms in pub­lic and re­lated charges.

On April 25, off-duty of­ficer Larry Shields al­legedly spot­ted Taylor car­ry­ing a gun in his hand in the street out­side of Taylor’s home. When Shields iden­ti­fied him­self as a po­lice of­ficer and at­temp­ted to in­vest­ig­ate, Taylor ran in­to his home, au­thor­it­ies claim. Shields fol­lowed the man and shot him once in front of the de­fend­ant’s wife and two young chil­dren.

Taylor spent weeks in the hos­pit­al re­cov­er­ing from in­tern­al in­jur­ies and was charged crim­in­ally on Sept. 20.

Shields has been ab­solved of wrong­do­ing in the case.

The of­ficer, a 17-year vet­er­an as­signed to the 18th Po­lice Dis­trict in West Phil­adelphia, was the primary pro­sec­u­tion wit­ness at the pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing. But it was de­fense at­tor­ney Mark B. Frost’s cross-ex­am­in­a­tion of Shields that ap­peared most com­pel­ling to Judge Thomas F. Gehret.

Frost ques­tioned Shields at length about the blow-by-blow of the al­ter­ca­tion with Taylor. The de­fend­er in­quired if Taylor walked or ran in­to his own house; which way Taylor faced when Shields iden­ti­fied him­self as an of­ficer; how hard Taylor shut the front door be­hind him; where Shields was stand­ing when Taylor poin­ted a gun at him; and many oth­er minute de­tails.

The judge cau­tioned Frost sev­er­al times against re­peat­ing ques­tions and re­peat­ing or para­phras­ing Shields’ testi­mony as a lead-in to par­tic­u­lar ques­tions.

Un­like a tri­al, where the pro­sec­u­tion must prove a de­fend­ant’s guilt bey­ond a reas­on­able doubt, a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing is con­sidered a “prima facie” pro­ceed­ing in which the pro­sec­u­tion must demon­strate merely the ba­sic facts of a case that jus­ti­fy a full tri­al.

Typ­ic­ally, de­fense at­tor­neys do not in­tro­duce wit­nesses at a pre­lim­in­ary hear­ing, but will try to draw testi­mony from pro­sec­u­tion wit­nesses that may be used to hinder the pro­sec­u­tion’s case at tri­al.

In cross-ex­amin­ing Shields, Frost offered a rap­id-fire suc­ces­sion of lengthy ques­tions that the wit­ness met with gen­er­ally terse replies. Gehret in­ter­rup­ted Frost and asked him bluntly, “Do you have a ques­tion? What is your ques­tion?”

Frost paused. Gehret ended the cross-ex­am­in­a­tion and the hear­ing, or­der­ing Taylor to be held for tri­al. Sher­iff’s depu­ties led the de­fend­ant out of the courtroom in­to a hold­ing area.

Frost did not re­turn a tele­phone mes­sage re­quest­ing com­ment on the case.

Since the day of the shoot­ing, Taylor’s fam­ily has in­sisted that Shields caused the con­front­a­tion and that Taylor, a uni­on roof­er by trade, was the vic­tim.

A prin­ted state­ment re­leased by the dis­trict at­tor­ney’s of­fice on Fri­day sup­por­ted Shields’ ac­count of events.

The of­ficer was off-duty and in ci­vil­ian cloth­ing. He was help­ing a re­l­at­ive move in­to a house on the same block where Taylor lives.

“As he was un­load­ing a truck, he ob­served Joshua Taylor out­side of an­oth­er home on the street with a gun in his hand. Of­ficer Shields iden­ti­fied him­self as a po­lice of­ficer and ap­proached Taylor; Taylor took off and ran in­side a home on Worth Street. Shields ran after Taylor, fol­low­ing him in­side his home,” the DA’s of­fice said in the state­ment.

In court, Shields test­i­fied that he was stand­ing on the front stoop of Taylor’s house when Taylor slammed the front door shut. But in­stead of clos­ing, the door bounced off the frame and re­mained open.

Shields said that Taylor then poin­ted a gun at him, so Shields pulled his own gun and shot Taylor once.

Shields test­i­fied that he was stand­ing in the door­way of the house when he fired. The DA’s state­ment in­dic­ates that Shields was in­side the house when the fi­nal con­front­a­tion oc­curred.

Taylor’s weapon was loaded with 17 live rounds and re­covered from the floor of the house. Taylor law­fully owned his gun, the DA’s of­fice said, but did not have a li­cense to carry it in pub­lic.

Au­thor­it­ies in­ter­viewed “sev­er­al wit­nesses who cor­rob­or­ated these events,” the DA’s of­fice said.

Ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, wit­nesses also told in­vest­ig­at­ors that Shields and Taylor had ar­gued over a park­ing spot earli­er on the day of the shoot­ing. The DA’s state­ment did not men­tion a pri­or ar­gu­ment.

Taylor’s wife, Brit­tany, told Fox 29 last month that Taylor could not have poin­ted a gun at Shields.

“When Josh came and ran in the house, I saw the gun fall out of his pock­et,” the wo­man said.

Brit­tany Taylor fur­ther the­or­ized that, if Shields felt threatened by her hus­band, the of­ficer should have held his ground out­side the house and called for backup, but he didn’t.

Joshua Taylor suffered liv­er dam­age and spent three weeks in a coma, his wife said. He re­mains in cus­tody at Cur­ran-From­hold Cor­rec­tion­al Fa­cil­ity in lieu of 10 per­cent of $500,000 bail. He is to be ar­raigned in Com­mon Pleas Court on Oct. 27. ••

Re­port­er Wil­li­am Kenny can be reached at 215-354-3031 or wkenny@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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