Felipe Vazquez takes stand, says he fired gun to scare officers

COLUMBUS, Neb. (KLKN) — Felipe Vazquez took the stand in his own defense Thursday, giving jurors his account of the day that LPD Investigator Mario Herrera was fatally shot.

Vazquez said he was about to play video games at his house when he heard a knock on the door from Lincoln Police.  They were there to serve a warrant for his arrest.

Vazquez said he panicked and began to think of what to do next.

He and a friend, Orion Ross, locked themselves in a bedroom and made phone calls and sent messages to loved ones letting them know what was happening, even asking a friend for a ride.

Vazquez told jurors that he and Ross came up with a plan to escape.  The plan involved breaking the window and firing a shot from the gun, but he said the intention wasn’t to shoot anyone.

“If there’s one or two more officers out there, what will they do if they hear gunshots? They will run for cover,” Vazquez said.  “So I told Orion that you gotta break the window, I’ll shoot at the tree and by then when they hear gunshots, they gon’ be scared and run for cover. By then when they look back up, we are nowhere in sight. We are down the street.”

Vazquez said that he and Ross then jumped out the window and could hear Herrera screaming.  He said he thought for a second about turning around to see if Herrera was OK but felt that if he did, he would be shot dead by officers.

Vazquez told the jurors that the day still seems surreal and that he tries to forget it every day.

He was asked why he didn’t try to shoot any of the officers who had their guns pointed at him while he was on the run.

“It was never my intention to shoot an officer,” Vazquez said.

Jurors also heard from Ross, who told them the last thing he said to Felipe Vazquez before shots were fired.

“He was asking me if he could shoot,” Ross said.

“What did you say?” asked Chief Deputy Lancaster County Attorney Bruce Prenda.

“What you do is what you do,” Ross responded.

Ross said that in the final moments before he and Vazquez escaped from the bedroom, Vazquez “asked for the gun, coughed and cocked it, and then went to the window.”

Ross said he believed that Vazquez coughed to hide the noise of the gun cocking.  That’s when Ross threw a mug through the window and they both escaped to the front of the house, where an officer was crouched behind a tree with a shield.

Ross testified that he never heard any shots fired but heard the screams of Herrera after he had been shot.

“Did you hear an officer outside the residence screaming?” Prenda asked.

“I did,” Ross said.

“Describe it,” Prenda said.

“Almost like an agony-type scream,” Ross said.

After jumping out the window, Ross ran toward Hartley Elementary School, where he jumped a fence to the playground but was met by a number of officers and ultimately arrested.

Ross said he left behind his wallet in the bedroom on purpose, knowing he was about to be in trouble for running from police but maintaining that he never fired a gun on that day.

“Do you agree that that was a pretty dumb thing to do?” Prenda asked.

“Yeah,” Ross said.

“But you didn’t have a gun, did you?” Prenda asked.

“No,” Ross said.

“And certainly at that critical moment, you didn’t fire a gun, did you?” Prenda asked.

“No,” Ross said.

The defense countered Ross’ testimony by saying the plea agreement he signed was his get out of jail free card and questioned him on how truthful he was being because of it.

The trial will continue on Monday.

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