TACOMA — Amid emotional testimony, Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson stopped to point out the man he believes shot him in the back of the head along a Long Beach highway nearly a year ago.
"It's the gentleman in the beige suit with the tie," Johnson said, motioning across the courtroom at defendant Martin A. Jones Monday morning.
Johnson testified he spoke with the man minutes before the shooting. They locked eyes. The former State Patrol trooper said he is certain Jones, 46, shot him along State Route 103 in Pacific County in the early morning hours last Feb. 13.
Jones faces trial on one count of attempted first-degree murder in Pierce County Superior Court. Lawyers fro the heavy machinery operator from Seaview argue he was improperly identified.
In testimony lasting most of the day, Johnson often stopped to compose himself and wiped tears from his eyes during difficult moments in his story.
"I was certain I only had a few seconds to live," Johnson said, choking up as he recalled the shooting. "I was dying. I was sure I was dying."
A routine stop
Johnson, a 25-year veteran trooper who started in law enforcement as a teenager, said his shift started like many others. He put on a freshly pressed uniform and started patrolling at about 3 p.m. He made about a dozen stops.
For dinner, he met with two other troopers at a Subway Restaurant near Long Beach. He said they discussed the recent police shootings in Seattle and Lakewood while keeping a cautious eye on the door.
Johnson later responded to a traffic stop along SR 103 to help another trooper with a drunken driving arrest shortly after midnight. The other trooper had arrested the defendant's wife, Susan Jones, and asked Johnson to impound her minivan.
"We try to help each other out as much as we can," Johnson said.
When they asked Jones' wife who they should call, she answered, "Marty," Johnson said. He wrote the name and a partial phone number on his hand before the second trooper drove away.
As the tow truck arrived, Johnson started an inventory of the belongings in the van to file with his impound paperwork. As he filled out the forms, he spotted a man walking up the sidewalk.
"He was walking at a brisk pace," Johnson said, adding, "He looked angry or upset. ... It seemed he was there with a purpose."
Pointing to Jones, Johnson said he watched the man go up to the tow truck driver and then walk away angrily. Johnson said he asked the man if he could help and the man simply barked, "No."
"I was standing right with him," Johnson said. "I could have reached out and touched him."
With an uneasy feeling, Johnson watched the man disappear into the darkness, he told the jury. Then he returned to work.
‘I knew I'd been shot'
His lip quivering at times, Johnson described how he went back to his inventory list, marking down a backpack and jumper cables. When he found a wallet, he pulled it out on the hood to count the money in front of the tow truck driver.
With the engine of the tow truck roaring in the background, Johnson never had any warning. He said he was bent over the hood when an arm wrapped around him from behind.
"I felt like I was getting pushed forward," Johnson said, struggling with some words. "Then I felt something at the back of my head."
Johnson said his whole body shuddered as the bullet slammed into the base of his skull and a terrible ringing drowned out the world.
"It felt like a crowbar hit me in the back of the head as hard as I could be hit," he said. "I knew I'd been shot. ... I instantly had the loudest ringing you could possibly imagine."
Johnson testified he didn't see the man shoot him, but spotted Jones standing nearby just seconds later. Johnson said he made eye contact as he pulled his service pistol to fire at his attacker. The trooper fired two shots, missing both times.
Defense attorney David Allen argued Jones was home all night. He said cell phone records give no indication Jones ever left the house while he sent out text messages trying to locate his wife.
Prosecutors with the state Attorney General's Office again played video footage taken by the tow truck driver capturing the first minutes after the shooting. Johnson's strained voice can be heard desperately asking a dispatcher to send help.
"I remember grabbing the back of my head (and finding blood)," he said. "I was surprised that I was still conscious."
Johnson said he refused to lie down, fearing he would die.
Recovery and identification
Long Beach officers rushed Johnson to Ocean Beach Hospital in Ilwaco where doctors stabilized him and took preliminary X-rays of his injuries. He said they had trouble examining him because he could not stop shaking.
"I didn't want them to put me out," he said. "I wanted to know what was going on with me."
Johnson was quickly transferred to a hospital in Portland for more specialized care. Investigators in search of his attacker asked him to describe the shooter and look at suspect photos.
While recovering in the hospital, he rejected several photos before asking to see a picture of the man whose name he still had written on his hand. He said he believed the man might be connected.
"It was a possibility that needed to be checked out," he said.
Investigators found a photo of Jones and the injured trooper picked the man out of a line-up of six pictures. Johnson was unclear Monday on when he first saw a photo of Jones and who he talked to during the process.
Prosecutors said Johnson made a clear identification when shown a photo of Jones while defense attorneys argue the selection was prejudiced by an earlier picture of Jones.
"You're aware that police have to be very, very careful when making identifications?" Allen asked.
"Absolutely," Johnson answered.
After Johnson contradicted the defense on several points, Allen accused Johnson of recalling only the details that help the prosecution. The attorney also noted Johnson has filed a $3 million lawsuit against the Jones family for his injuries.
Johnson later responded the lawsuit addressed medical costs and damages for permanent physical pain he has suffered in the wake of the shooting. He noted his head hurt throughout his testimony.
Assistant Attorney General John Hillman argued a variety of evidence — not just the photo identification — ties Jones to the crime. But he asked Johnson to confirm again his steadfast belief that Jones is guilty.
"Do you have any doubt this is the man that shot you?" Hillman asked as he stood over Jones.
"I do not," Johnson answered.
Prosecutors expected to finish presenting their case Tuesday. Defense attorneys will then present their case to the jury, expecting to call several witnesses throughout the next week.