Published: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 8:13 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 1, 2003 at 12:00 a.m.
While investigators pieced together what happened leading up to the death of William Christmas, eyewitnesses recounted what they saw:
Some people watched the scene play out through plate-glass windows across the street.
Police directed Edith Piercy, an employee at the Chevron on the northeast corner of NW 39th Avenue and NW 13th Street, to lock herself - and other employees and patrons - inside the store until the matter was resolved. They were told there was a "standoff." Then they heard gunfire.
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For Joann Hall, Tuesday was like any other day. She stopped to pick up a large cup of coffee at the Gate store on NW 13th Street before heading on to work at Ace Cartridge Exchange.
She pulled out of the Gate heading north on 13th Street. When she approached NW 39th Avenue, she said she saw "red and blue" lights flashing so she slowed down and pulled into the left-turn lane.
"I thought it was an accident," Hall said.
Then she said she saw a car stopped in front of her, but straddling the median pointed toward the Wachovia Bank on the corner. And in front of the car, Hall said she saw a plainclothes officer and a Sheriff's Office deputy with their guns drawn.
"The car tried to run over the deputy, and the deputy fired into the car," said Hall, who was visibly shaken about 15 minutes after the incident. "To my knowledge, they both fired," she said, referring to the two law enforcement officers.
Then the car spun around as if to drive away, she said.
"I did a U-turn over the median and went in the opposite direction," Hall said. "I said to myself, 'Oh God, I'm getting outta here before anything else happens.' "
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George Griffith was driving east on NW 39th Avenue about 8:45 a.m. when he spotted a red car traveling extremely fast. He said the car passed him on the left just east of NW 34th Street.
"I was about to call 911," said Griffith, who lost sight of the car until he came upon the vehicle and the officers at the intersection of NW 13th Street.
With the idea of offering his eyewitness testimony of the car's speed to the officers, Griffith said he pulled into the Shell station at the southeast corner of the intersection.
"I was going to tell them the guy was going very fast," Griffith said.
He said he saw the sheriff's deputy approach the vehicle holding a gun to his side. Griffith said the deputy banged on the window of the car.
"I hit the ground when all the gunfire erupted," Griffith said.
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Environmental engineer Steve Cloutier paused in the left-hand turn lane of NW 39th Avenue when he saw the police cars to his right. He then turned north on NW 13th Street on his way to his employer, Koogler & Associates, which is located about a block north of the NW 39th Avenue intersection.
After he was parked, he walked back to the intersection.
"I wanted to see what was going on," Cloutier said. "I actually went out in the middle of the road and started directing traffic because cars kept driving through. They made me leave when the guys with shields came in. The cop was definitely justified in shooting."
- Compiled by Janine Young Sikes
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