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.