FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) --Moments after Fresno police shot a suspect at the end of a chase, a weapon popped into view, tying the suspect to the death of a rival. Jerel Stanfield is on trial for murder because of it, four years after the police shooting and his arrest triggered protests.
Someone shot William Simpson to death on Easter Sunday 2013 as he slept in his car, and his pregnant girlfriend shielded her young son. But Stanfield's defense attorney says nobody saw who did it, and police framed Stanfield for the crime.
A long, slow police chase ended in a burst of gunfire four years ago in a southwest Fresno neighborhood. Fresno police officers say Stanfield reached for his waistband as he ran away, so they shot him several times, including in the back of the head.
The shooting partially paralyzed him and prompted protests. But it also produced evidence in a murder from earlier that day, and a shooting five days prior.
"This is the gun that killed William Simpson," said prosecutor Chris Gularte. "This is the gun that shot at Hakim Momon and William Davis. This is the gun that was found on the defendant hours after the murder."
Forensics testing proved the gun police found on the street was used in those two prior crimes. But Stanfield's attorney says his client didn't commit either of them.
He says someone planted the gun, and even one of the officers thought something weird was happening.
"It appeared out of nowhere and he admitted on the stand," said attorney Miles Harris. "(The officer) said, 'I thought it could've been one of ours.'"
Police say both William Simpson's girlfriend and one of the other shooting victims identified Stanfield as the shooter at one point, but they wouldn't do it during the trial. Prosecutors say they're scared to be labeled snitches.
"The gangs have cultivated that system of fear," Gularte said. "That's what allows them to operate."
But the defense says the district attorney's whole case stinks.
"We could toss a skunk in the jury box and you guys could pretend all you wanted, but you'd smell it," Harris said. "There are holes in this case big enough to drive a truck through."
The jury will start deliberating the case Tuesday. Stanfield faces life in prison if he's convicted.