The woman who was driving the car shot at by a Minneapolis police officer testified in Hennepin County court Thursday that the Nov. 19, 2016 incident "happened so fast."
Caylea Wade, who is now 24, testified that she didn't see officer Efrem Hamilton's squad car behind her as she backed away from the scene of an apparent shooting. Wade and three other girlfriends had just left Pyrmd night club in the Warehouse District of downtown Minneapolis, when two male friends who escorted them back to their car, suddenly jumped in with them.
The men testified that they heard shots and wanted to get away from the scene.
Wade said she didn't hear the shots, but became nervous when she learned what was going on.
According to defense attorney Fred Bruno, Minneapolis police officers had responded to calls that as many as 30 to 50 shots were fired near the club. Police were told that a grey 4-door Cadillac sedan, going the wrong way down 3rd Ave. N may have been involved. Wade's BMW 330i sedan is also grey.
Wade said she tried to drive forward, up 3rd Ave. N. towards Target Field, but was blocked by officers who motioned for her to put her car into reverse. Leading her to go the wrong way down the street.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Tara Ferguson-Lopez asked Wade if she looked behind her before she began to drive.
"Yes," said Wade.
"Did you see a cop car?" asked Ferguson-Lopez.
"No," replied Wade.
The force of the collision was not strong enough to cause the airbags to deploy.
Defense attorney Fred Bruno said Hamilton saw a car matching the description back rapidly toward him. In a matter of two seconds, Bruno said, Hamilton felt the impact of the car hitting his squad. When he jumped out of his car, Hamilton heard the other car's engine revving. Bruno said Hamilton feared the car would try and hit him again so he fired one bullet at the rear driver's side of the car.
Wade said she didn't hear the shot but smelled an odor which one of her passengers identified as gun smoke. Almost immediately, said Wade, officers surrounded her car with their guns drawn. No one in the car was injured in the shooting.
During his cross examination, Bruno focused on what substances Wade had consumed before the collision.
Wade admitting smoking marijuana earlier in the day and taking Adderall. She said she has a prescription for both. Wade lives in California and said that's where the pot prescription comes from. She said she also drank some alcohol before going to the club. But didn't drink there.
When Wade said her initial statement to police a few hours after the incident may not have been completely accurate because she was upset, Bruno interjected, "You were high."
"No," said Wade. "Not at that time."
Efrem Hamilton, 43, has been charged with 2nd degree assault with a deadly weapon; intentional discharge of a firearm and reckless discharge of a firearm. All three are felonies.
Hamilton is the second Minneapolis police officer charged recently for actions performed while on the job. Last December, Chris Reiter was sentenced to six months in the workhouse after he was convicted of kicking a man in the face while he was working as a police officer during an arrest in 2016.
While Hamilton was off-duty when he fired at Wade's car, he was in uniform and as Bruno said, was working "under color of law."
Bruno hailed Hamilton for his service to the department. Before joining the force in 2007, Hamilton served with the Marines in Iraq. Bruno said Hamilton has received no sustained complaints for use of force as a Minneapolis police officer.
Given the danger posed by the car full of people, Bruno said Hamilton's use of force was justified. The trial will likely include testimony by use of force experts who will evaluate the actions Hamilton made that morning.
Throughout Hamilton's career, Bruno said Hamilton has tried to "better himself." Born in Odessa, Texas in 1974, Hamilton was raised by a "strict and religious" grandmother after his parents were killed. Hamilton is married with three children.
Five of the six people who were in the car that night testified Thursday in court. Testimony did not include mention of a settlement they reached in 2017 with the city of Minneapolis for $150,000.