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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Hargrove's trial begins

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Justin Hargrove exits a Putnam County Sheriff's Department transport vehicle on April 8, 2010. Hargrove, who was charged with attempted murder after allegedly shooting at a Putnam County Sheriff's Department Reserve officer on April 6, 2010, was in court Tuesday for the first day of his jury trial.
GREENCASTLE -- The trial of a Greencastle man accused of shooting an assault rifle at a police officer began on Tuesday.

Justin L. Hargrove, 25, faces charges of Class A felony attempted murder and Class D felonies resisting law enforcement, receiving stolen property and criminal recklessness with a deadly weapon. The charges stem from an April 6 incident in which Hargrove was allegedly one of five individuals that drove around Greencastle shooting out of the windows of a moving vehicle.

The five guns used in the incident were stolen during an April 4 burglary at a Coatesville residence. Two of Hargrove's co-defendants, Michael Scott Pryor and Keven Dale Crowe, were convicted in that burglary.

The shooting spree led to a high-speed chase, and eventually a foot pursuit of Hargrove, who admitted he jumped from the vehicle while it was moving.

It is alleged that Hargrove fired an AR-15 assault rifle at Putnam County Sheriff's Department Matthew Biggs as Biggs sat in his police cruiser and was preparing to stop the vehicle in which Hargrove was riding.

As jury selection began prior to the trial, Sidney Tongret, Hargrove's court-appointed attorney, asked the potential jurors if they could be objective even though his client was African-American and Hargrove's case had received much media attention.

Tongret went so far as to say there was a "racial divide."

"Can you be fair and impartial while sitting in judgment of a man of color?" he asked.

Tongret also reminded the jury pool that they were obligated to not consider anything they had previously heard or read about the case.

"Can you set aside everything you think you know about this case and judge it solely on the evidence?" he asked.

By the time jury selection was completed and the trial actually commenced, it was after 2 p.m.

In his opening statement, Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter outlined the charges against Hargrove and told the jury the state would prove that Hargrove had "specific intent to kill Matthew Biggs."

Bookwalter said the state would show the jury cell phone photos of Hargrove, whose street name is "Chaos," with the rifle he allegedly shot at Biggs with in his hands.

"He was with his friends that night," Bookwalter said. "They were drinking, smoking some weed and popping some pills. You will hear testimony that Hargrove said if he got caught with those guns, he wasn't going to jail ... he was going to shoot an officer."

Bookwalter said the jury would also see the video of Hargrove's initial interview with police.

"It's 58 minutes of lies," Bookwalter said. "It starts out as 'I wasn't there, I had nothing to do with it,' and that changes to 'I was there, but I wasn't the shooter.'"

Tongret presented a different view, saying that by the time the group in the car was being pursued by police, Hargrove made the decision to "sacrifice himself for his friends."

"Mr. Hargrove knew that two of his friends had stolen some weapons," Tongret said. "He also knew that Lacey Couch and Hannah Shockey (the two females in the car) had drugs on them."

When Hargrove fired the AR-15 at Biggs' police cruiser, Tongret said, Hargrove's intent was not to kill Biggs, but rather to "make the car pull back."

The bullet struck the hood of the car directly in front of the driver's compartment and then fragmented through the windshield. After firing the shot, the car, which was driven by Couch, took off again. Hargrove said he threw the magazine from the AR-15 out the car window, but that he kept the weapon in the car. Hargrove eventually jumped from the vehicle while it was still moving, causing abrasions over much of his body and an injury to his ankle.

Tongret said his client did not recall saying he would shoot an officer if confronted.

"He said he might have," Tongret said. "He said, 'I was kind of acting like a big guy ... maybe I was posturing.'"

Tongret said his client admitted that his statement to police had not been truthful.

"But guess what?" Tongret said. "The police started out by lying to (Hargrove). They told him, 'You're not under arrest. We just want to know why you ran from the police officer.' They were lying to him the whole time. If you want the truth, you should be truthful. They sat there for 58 minutes telling lies to each other."

While Tongret said it may be possible to prove Hargrove shot the AR-15, the state will not be able to prove he did so with deadly intention.

"There's no way you'll be able to determine that he shot that rifle with the intent to kill Matt Biggs," he told the jury.

The first witness called by the state was Brian Dickerson, from whom the guns used in the shootings were stolen. Dickerson identified the guns one by one, beginning with the AR-15, along with two plastic boxes of ammunition.

Dickerson said he knew Crowe and Pryor had stolen his guns, and that to his knowledge Hargrove had not been involved in the burglary.

Biggs was called to the stand next. He detailed the incident from the time he began chasing the vehicle Hargrove was riding in.

Biggs said he saw Hargrove point the AR-15 at him as soon as he pulled the police cruiser behind Couch's vehicle.

"I was looking down the barrel," Biggs said.

As Hargrove fired the rifle, Biggs ducked and threw himself as far across the front seat of the police cruiser as he could, he said.

"I felt the car shake," he said. "Then I heard the vehicle take off."

Biggs said he began pursuing the vehicle again after the shooting, and that eventually he saw Hargrove throw himself out of the car. Biggs said he "slid into" Hargrove with his car, and that a foot pursuit ensued. Biggs chose to terminate the foot pursuit, he said, because he didn't know if Hargrove still had a weapon or not.

Tongret argued that if his client had been aiming at Biggs, he would have shot the officer.

"If that gun was pointed at you, how did it end up in the hood of your car?" he asked Biggs.

Other witnesses for the state who took the stand Thursday included Putnam County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Craig Sibbitt, who assisted Biggs on the night of the shootings, and ballistics expert Jerrod Baugh, an officer with the Indiana Excise Police who is an expert on firearms and ammunition.

Proceedings in the case ran until late afternoon and will resume today. The trial is expected to take two or three days.

If convicted on all charges, Hargrove could be sentenced to a maximum of 59 years in prison.

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Do you think this man will get a fair trial in Putnam County? Their are so many racist people in this county and it makes me sick! Everyone must coexist and become ONE

-- Posted by 1stamendrights on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 1:14 AM

Let's imagine this guy was white...he still shot a weapon at a police officer. If he would have aimed 6 inches higher that night then the race card would be out the window. I can not believe that racism is being brought up in this case...

It's not that the jury would find him guilty because he's black...they would find him guilty because he could have killed an upstanding, young and honest man in Matt Biggs.

I truly dislike when people want to play the race card when it's convenient. In this case a known criminal nearly killed someone I went to high school with. Now, after being found guilty, he will be sucking up my tax dollars for probably about 10 years, then he will be back on the streets after getting a prison education.

One more thing...You should never point a weapon at someone unless you intend to kill that person. If you point a weapon at another human being, you better be prepared for some attempted murder charges.

-- Posted by chaas013 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 5:33 AM

I completely agree with Chaas013.

He knew what he intended to do when he pointed the rifle at that officer. He needs the max punishment -- keep the dirt off our streets Bookwalter!

-- Posted by PutGrad06 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 6:51 AM

Tongret shouldn't "play the racist card" for this offender. As mentioned above, if you shoot at someone, it doesn't matter if you are black, white, yellow, green or purple. You attempted to kill someone. THOU SHALL NOT KILL or Putnamville could be your place to live.

-- Posted by Taxpayer5253 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:00 AM

no one aims a gun at a cop and pulls the trigger unless you want to kill them or are willing to accept the fact that you might kill them, straight up!!

I say hang this punk!!

-- Posted by K9_Handler on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:15 AM

OMG can you say this gy is already hung. And Sid is helping that happen by putting the states evidence out in the paper where everyone can see.. Lets well maybe you can prove he shot at the cop but you cant prove he tried to kill him. OMG that doesnt matter what his intent was. Lets recall that when involved in a criminal act and a cop gets hurt then guess who takes the fall, even if he sprained his hip as he dove into the floor of his car. And as the first person said will he get a fair trial here, nope considering the person who wrote hange this punk seems to be not only racist but also a cop.Only thing he did not use was the N word.

-- Posted by Oh My Goodness on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:30 AM

Tongret played the race card and then said that his client lied to the police and people in the jury are supposed to show mercy because the shooter is black. He aimed and fired a weapon at police officer by his own admission. How much more does a jury need hear? Maybe that he had a deprived childhood and nobody loved him when he was in school!!!!!

-- Posted by albert on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:43 AM

A bunch of messed up kids..of course if you aim and shoot at a cop..it's clear what the intent was. I believe chaos was the leader and the rest of these kids are just so lost, they followed him.

-- Posted by Peacefullyme on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:48 AM

Oh My Goodness -

Fair trial?! What would be a fair trial in your eyes? Giving him lesser charges?

I say a fair trial would be to throw the book at him. This isn't a racial issue...I'm white...if I were to get all drugged up and shoot at a cop one night I wouldn't be let off easy. I'd get put on the grill...He should too.

Oh...and for legal reasons, I mean allegedly shoot at a cop. Just add that in to my previous post also.

-- Posted by chaas013 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:32 AM

It is people like most of you that continue to make race an issue! get over it! who cares if he is black, white, purple or green, if he did it, he did it. The people that continue to scream racism are the biggest racist of all!

-- Posted by indianaresident on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:37 AM

Why is this being published during the pendency of the trial which will allow the jury to review all of this and be influenced by matters outside of the presentations made in court?

Why did not the defense get a gag order?

To those of you who do not think this is important, think about how you made up your mind already just reading this article. And think about the jury members reading this tonight when they go home while the trial is still gong on.

-- Posted by reckman on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:42 AM

will 500 years be enough???

-- Posted by GRNT on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:42 AM

hey bookwalter make sure this criminal get what he deserves, as i say, short rope tall tree

-- Posted by lleonard47 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 9:21 AM


-- Posted by Michele1953 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 10:52 AM

"What concerns me is that we have officers terminating a pursuit because they are scared. I would have been absolutely irate if I would have lived in the area where the officer let the armed suspect get away."

Police officers in Indiana (and the U.S altogether) are trained not to pursue a fleeing armed suspect on foot into unknown territory, particularly after dark.

For example, Google 'Beech Grove Officer William Toney' & you'll understand why.

This was not at all a matter of fear, but excellent training and decision-making on the part of Deputy Biggs.

-- Posted by ProblemTransmission on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 11:21 AM

Of course the defense council wants all of this in the paper - how easy will it be to requaest a mistrial if he doesn't like trhe way it's going? Or better yet, get the conviction overturned on appeal.

-- Posted by VolunteerFF on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 12:48 PM


This stuff happens all the time. The Banner always runs things like this whether the trial has started or not. The attorneys don't call the Banner and ask to have this stuff put in there, someone from the Banner's staff is probably sitting in the courtroom watching the trial or getting information from the clerks office' public file. IT IS NOT RIGHT!!!! I, personally get tired of seeing all of this kind of stuff in the paper.

-- Posted by ladycubs on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 3:12 PM

He broke the law, whatever the courts decide is out of our hands.

My biggest fear is that after 10 years I am trying to move my family back to my home town Beautiful Greencastle Indiana and unforunately you morons are freaking my wife out as she reads these posts everday. So after visiting she loved it. After I gave her the link to what would be our local paper now she thinks I come from a town of racist inbreds. Which if you read these posts

that can be easily assumed. Think people...dont judge others, just try and be positive on a daily basis. when something like this happens be thankful it wasnt you or your dad or mom etc.

And then stop right there because the rest is just wrong................I just want too come home people........

-- Posted by dodger1 on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 3:37 PM

Well maybe it will storm real bad and there will be some weather news put in the paper. Wish some of this criminal news was just listed in the records section, then maybe followed up with a verdict.

-- Posted by farmer on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 7:40 PM

dodger1,sounds like your wife is pre-judging everybody in Greencastle due to what is posted here on this forum,now granted a lot of what is posted on here is not very well thought out,but that's no reason to judge all of us for I beleive this is a great little town,even with it's problems.I hope you can get her to open her mind and really get to know the town before judging it. Remember it's just the news people.

-- Posted by obeone on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:35 PM

Well, dodger, if your wife actually called us "inbreds" I don't want her here anyway.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 8:50 PM

Reckman has some valid points and yes Ladycubs...attorneys DO call the Banner

-- Posted by stay at home mom on Wed, Jan 19, 2011, at 11:09 PM

Jurors are actually given specific orders, when they go home, to not look at local papers where the case may be discussed as to not sway their decision. Now, whether they follow that order can not be known.

-- Posted by ruserious27 on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 12:49 AM

Clovertucky............We wont be moving to Cloverdale so I think your safe buddy.

But your comment is exactly what I was talking about. So good job buddy! You hit the nail on the head with your name, it says alot about you

obviously. And for the record I didnt say she called us that (yes me too) I was born and raised there thank you. So like I said.....be nice.

You dont even know me and now your starting in with me? Obeone, thank you I think she will love it there as I did and have for 40 years.


-- Posted by dodger1 on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 7:40 AM


I don't think anyone was meaning to sound racist. I know as well as you do that there is a lot of ignorant racism in our little part of the country, but on this forum I haven't seen anything that would warrant you calling my family and friends 'racist inbreds'. I know the context...but by you writing that here it seems like that's what your wife thinks, and then you go on to say that the people writing here have reaffirmed your wife's impression.

I say you should just keep your uppity wife wherever you are now, if those are really her feelings. If not, then you're writing that just to insult us, which would make me want you away from here.

The fact is that a man got drunk, did some drugs, went out shooting stuff from a moving car and happened to shoot a high powered assault rifle at a hardworking police officer. He also happened to be black. This isn't the 1950s (where he would have likely been beaten and/or killed when found by the police)...but even if it were and a white man were to do all of this back then he would still receive punishment. He's not being singled out because of his race...he's being singled out because of his actions.

-- Posted by chaas013 on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 9:47 AM

Enough with the racism talks. Seriously, Google top ten criminals or con men or murderers, etc. The majority are white men! Surprised? I'm not. Give it up already, the only reason most black criminals make headlines is because someone pulls the race card. If Hargrove were white, he'd get the same thing: jail time.

-- Posted by WTFRUthinkin on Thu, Jan 20, 2011, at 9:23 PM

I do not think that this case has anything to do with racism. I think that people need to stop calling it that when someone other then white gets into trouble. I think that we are all adults here and i think that people need to realize that this is not the 50's no more and there are many people who are friends with other races. I think that Hargrove should get punishment for what he has done. I always live by this saying if you are willing to commit the crime then you are willing to do the time. Stop arguing about racism and pull it together he did the crime so he should do the time no matter what.

-- Posted by mikegirl2011 on Sat, Jan 22, 2011, at 12:41 PM

dodger, it was your own words that prompted my reaction. You went on the offensive, and now you want to get defensive. Perhaps you should take a long, hard look at yourself sometime soon.

-- Posted by Clovertucky on Tue, Jan 25, 2011, at 7:37 PM

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