Accused Collier shooter on trial
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Richard Collier tried to duck away from the rapid burst of bullets that left him paralyzed, he testified Tuesday at the trial of the man accused of shooting him.
Collier said he was sitting in the passenger seat of his sport utility vehicle talking and listening to music with recently cut teammate Kenny Pettway. The car was running and the back door was left open while a woman he met earlier that night went inside her apartment.
"There was a line of gunshots coming from behind me," said Collier, sitting in a wheelchair in front of the jury box. "I was telling Kenny to drive. I didn't know if I was getting hit or not, I couldn't feel it. Shots kept coming."
But he said Pettway panicked and didn't move the SUV. The next thing he remembered was being in an ambulance. He never saw the shooter. Neither did Pettway.
Prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told jurors Tyrone Hartsfield was the person who shot Collier in a cowardly act of revenge in September 2008, while defense attorney Ann Finnell told jurors that the player had many enemies and police didn't investigate all of them.
Collier recalled the first time he saw Hartsfield, five months before the shooting. He said they were at another club and Hartsfield refused to get out of the way as he tried to leave. Collier said Hartsfield shoved him, and he pushed back, causing a drink to spill in Hartsfield's face.
"He had a snarl on his face, his fist balled up," Collier said. "He looked like he wanted to hit me, so I hit him first."
Collier, then 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, said he punched Hartsfield three times in the face, knocking him to the ground. He said he never saw him again, but that a friend told him the night of the shooting that Hartsfield was also in the club.
"You weren't worried about him, were you?" Finnell asked.
"No, I had let it go. I was through with it," Collier said.
Hartsfield never let it go, de la Rionda said in his opening statement. He carried a grudge for months. When Hartsfield saw Collier at the nightclub, he began calling friends to get a gun and then waited for the right chance to use it.
"Revenge, payback," de la Rionda shouted in his opening arguments. "When this man before you ... pulled a trigger and repeatedly shot a defenseless man, he was getting his revenge."
Collier was shot several times and left paralyzed from the waist down. His left leg was amputated. Police used cell phone records to build a case against Hartsfield, who had given police his number after reporting the first altercation.
Hartsfield slowly shook his head several times during de la Rionda's opening statement. The prosecutor said Hartsfield found out where Collier lived and went out looking for him. So when he saw Collier again at another nightclub, he set a plan in motion.
"When the defendant saw his target, Richard Collier, he wanted a gun and he set in his mind what he then did," de la Rionda said. "He wanted the perfect opportunity."
A cousin provided a gun, and later Hartsfield and his friend, Stephfan Wilson, followed Pettway and Collier as the players followed two sisters back to their apartment, de la Rionda said. The women went into the apartment. Jemelia Corbie returned, then went back inside again, leaving the back door open.
De la Rionda said police found Wilson through Hartsfield's phone records. Wilson told police Hartsfield got out of their car by the apartments, he heard the shots and then Hartsfield came back and they drove away.
Finnell said the case isn't about revenge, but about greed, saying Wilson was on probation for a bank robbery and was trying to avoid going back to prison. Another witness wanted reward money, she said.
"Wilson knew what he needed to do to save himself -- he told them exactly what they wanted to hear," Finnell said. "He told them Tyrone Hartsfield was bent on revenge."
She said there are no credible witnesses placing Hartsfield at the shooting, nor any physical evidence tying him to the shooting. She asked Collier and other witnesses about other women Collier had dated, including more than one at once.
The sisters also testified that they heard Collier tell Pettway that he didn't know why he had so many enemies, but that the comment came in reference to seeing Hartsfield again.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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