QUEENS — The ex-con accused of fatally shooting an NYPD officer in 2015 underwent brain surgery prior to the killing that affected his mental state, his lawyer said Friday during opening statements in the man's murder trial.
Demetrius Blackwell, 37, who is charged with gunning down Officer Brian Moore, 25, in Queens Village on Saturday, May 2, 2015, suffers from epilepsy and had to undergo brain surgery two years prior to the shooting, his attorney David Bart said.
"What it did to his cognitive abilities? His memory?" Bart asked the jurors in a courtroom packed with Moore's family members and fellow police officers, many from the 105th Precinct where he worked.
The defense lawyer said during a pre-trial conference in May that his client suffered an epileptic seizure the night before the shooting that had wiped out his memory of the incident.
On Friday, Blackwell, wearing a white button-down shirt and black pants, sat quietly with an indifferent expression on his face as prosecutors recounted the night of the killing.
“When most people were making plans for Saturday evening, Brian Moore was getting dressed to go to work… and got into his car never to return again,” Assistant District Attorney Daniel Saunders said in his opening statements.
Moore, a five-year NYPD veteran, and his partner, Erik Jansen, then 30, were in an unmarked police car when they drove up beside Blackwell and saw him adjusting something in his pocket, Saunders said.
“Police. You got something?” Moore asked Blackwell, according to Saunders.
"Yes, I got something,” Blackwell responded before pulling out a silver handgun and shooting at Moore twice, with one of the bullets piercing the officer's brain, the prosecutor said.
Moore died at Jamaica Hospital two days later.
Saunders argued that Blackwell, who lived in the area, shot Moore because he didn’t want to be caught with an illegal gun.
Blackwell, who has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, is a convicted felon with nine prior arrests, including for weapons possession, assault and robbery, police said.
Prosecutors said that Blackwell, who wore a black hoodie during his encounter with the officers, was spotted by at least two witnesses running through a nearby backyard.
At some point he ran into a driveway, reemerging about eight-and-a-half minutes after the shooting wearing a blue T-shirt and sneakers, Saunders said. He then joined a group of people hanging out on the street, the prosecutor noted.
When police later talked to Blackwell, he gave them a false name and initially said that he didn’t see or hear anything, Saunders added. Blackwell later said that he did hear three gunshots ring out but that he was inside a house nearby when the shooting took place, the ADA said.
He was arrested shortly after and taken to the 105th Precinct, where police officers found cocaine and marijuana on him, Saunders said.
Blackwell also claimed he was suffering from a seizure while at the precinct, but paramedics at the stationhouse determined that he didn't, the prosecutor noted.
Moore's partner and at least one neighbor identified Blackwell in a police lineup that night, Saunders said.
Blackwell was later taken to Queens Hospital Center, where he was given medication for his seizures, the prosecutor said.
Police later found Blackwell's hoodie at his neighbor's house. The gun was discovered in the backyard behind the neighbor's house that Monday, despite detectives searching the area the day before, prosecutors said.
The bullets fired at Moore matched the recovered gun, prosecutors said. Investigators also recovered DNA of two people from the gun, including Blackwell's, Saunders said.
Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, who spoke to reporters outside the courthouse Friday, called Blackwell "a cold-hearted killer" and described attempts to use his health issues as a defense “complete nonsense.”
“I have family and friends that have epilepsy and they don’t kill New York City police officers," Lynch said. "That doesn’t cause mental illness.”
The case will resume Monday.