Trial Begins for Man Accused of Shooting At Officers on I-5

POSTED: 6:07 PM Jan 29 2013   UPDATED: 8:57 PM Jan 29 2013
REDDING, Calif. -

The trial has started for a man charged with ten counts of attempted murder for shooting at law enforcement officers on Interstate-Five in Shasta County.

Altogether, Albert Smith is charged with 24 counts related to his alleged shootout with police.

Investigators said Smith took officers on a high-speed chase on October 27, 2011. They told us Smith eventually stopped near Castella, only to open fire on law enforcement.

A K-9 was grazed by a bullet on his paw, but no other officers were hurt.

Smith was shot and suffered injuries in his shoulder area.

The trial started Tuesday morning with opening statements. Both attorneys gave the jury a rundown of what they could expect to hear during testimonies.

Deputy District Attorney Curtis Woods described the day of the incident as "pure chaos." He said Smith was driving erratically, weaving and dodging down I-5, refusing to pull over, even though multiple patrol cars were following him with their lights and sirens on.

Woods said when Smith finally stopped, he refused to get out of the van. He said Smith eventually fired toward officers, who then shot back in self-defense.           

Smith's attorney, Esau Herrera, said Smith did not discharge any weapon at any officer and had no intention of hitting any of them. He said there is evidence that the weapon was fired toward the freeway median.

Woods called his first witness, Shelley Barlow, to the stand. She's a CHP Sergeant who was off-duty at the time of the incident.

She described seeing Smith driving the wrong direction on I-5 before she called 9-11.

Herrera did not cross examine Barlow.       

The second witness called was Michael Varhan, one of the CHP officers involved.

Woods questioned Varhan, stressing the fact that officers made their presence obvious to Smith during the pursuit and that he still refused to pull over.

Woods also played the CHP dash cam video recorded the day of the shooting.

Varhan testified that when smith finally pulled over, he wouldn't get out of the car, despite their commands. He said instead, Smith kept reaching around in the car.

He said he the other officers and saw a flash and smoke from Smith's weapon and that's when they fired back.

Varhan also testified that there were bullet holes found in the bumper and light-bar of his patrol car that were not there before that day.

We asked Herrera how Smith was handling the trial so far. He said Smith is "distressed that he's wrongfully accused of willful, deliberate, attempted murder and of course, it's stressful for his family but Albert is feeling good that he finally, finally gets his day in court."    

Testimonies will continue Wednesday morning.