ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - The Albuquerque police officer who shot and killed an Iraqi War veteran during a standoff three years ago described the shooting for a civil-court jury on Tuesday.
A judge has already ruled the shooting to be an excessive use of force, but even so Officer Brett Lampiris-Tremba insisted he had no other choice than to shoot Kenneth Ellis outside a 7-Eleven store.
As the trial of a lawsuit filed by Ellis' families continues, Lampiris-Tremba told jurors in detail what he thought just after he pulled the trigger on that morning in January 2010.
"I saw what was one of the most horrible things I've seen in my life," he testified. "He was having a hard time after I fired my round at him.
"It did stop his action. Unless you want me to, I'd rather not describe that."
The officer testified earlier that he had stopped Ellis' car at the request of other officer involved in an undercover operation nearby.
Lampiris-Tremba told jurors in the moments leading up to the shooting he was afraid for his safety, the safety of other officers at the scene and the safety of the general public.
He described Ellis as agitated and holding a gun to his head while talking to his mother on a cell phone.
"He said, 'I'm here at this location. Mom, there's cops around. Mom, I'm not going to go back to prison,'" the officer said.
When Ellis took a step toward another officer, Lampiris-Tremba said he decided to pull the trigger.
"After I fired, I had heard other officers say, 'Did he shoot himself? Did he kill himself?" Lampiris-Tremba said. "And I thought, 'No, I shot him,' and then I turn and I said, 'Did I shoot him? Yeah, I shot him.'"
The attorney for the Ellis family pointed out that Lampiris-Tremba never mentioned Ellis taking a step toward officers in earlier interviews.
And when asked why he didn't shoot Ellis in the arm or the leg, the officer said that wasn't an option.
"That's TV stuff," he testified. "That doesn't work, especially with a moving target."
Jury members have to decide on a number of things including whether the traffic stop that led to the shooting was legal and if the Albuquerque Police Department has a problem with its hiring and training policies.
They will also decide on damages based on the earlier ruling of the shooting being excessive force.
Lampiris-Tremba's testimony wrapped up Tuesday.
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