Jurors in the murder trial of federal agent Christopher Deedy on Wednesday were finally able to view a much-talked-about security video of the shooting of Kollin Elderts inside a Waikiki McDonald’s.
But the video is of such poor quality that it does little to help jurors see what really happened in the early morning hours of Nov. 5 when the two men scuffled and Deedy shot and killed Elderts.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Janice Futa warned jurors during her opening arguments Monday that the video was “frustratingly fuzzy.”
And she was right.
The video is jumpy, and is more consistent with stop-motion imaging in which a photo is taken every one to two seconds and put together like a flipbook than something you’d watch in a movie theater. It’s impossible to tell what is really happening.
But perhaps more importantly, the footage lacks sound. There’s no way to hear what is being said. Did Deedy identify himself as a law enforcement officer, as the defense contends? Or did he simply threaten to shoot Elderts in the face, as the prosecution says?
Deedy’s defense hinges on his convincing the jury he was acting in self defense and the defense of others when he decided to pull the trigger on his Glock 26.
Here’s what the video shows:
Deedy and his friends, Adam Gutowski and Jessica West, are at the counter of the Kuhio Avenue McDonald’s at 2:24 a.m. on Nov. 5, 2011 after a night in which they’d been drinking and socializing in Chinatown and Waikiki.
Twelve minutes later, at about 2:36 a.m., Elderts and his friend Shane Medeiros walk into the restaurant, passing Deedy and his friends on the way to the counter. While ordering, Elderts and Medeiros start talking to another customer, Michel Perrine, who was also at the counter ordering food.
Perrine sits at a table by himself. Elderts sits down at another table about 10 feet away and in the middle of the restaurant.
A few minutes later, at 2:40 a.m., Deedy approaches Elderts. Deedy is wearing a light-colored button-up shirt and his hands are in the pockets of his shorts.
About a minute later Elderts is on his feet and West is next to Deedy, facing him. Medeiros comes up, too.
This is when the fracas begins. Customers are all around. Some try to intervene.
Deedy appears to kick Elderts, who then charges at the federal agent. Medeiros and Gutowski grapple.
Elderts throws Deedy to the ground, when he gets up they’re back together, Deedy moving backwards and Elderts with what looks like a cocked fist.
Within seconds the two are on the floor, out of sight near the counter. It’s 2:42 a.m.
You can’t tell when Deedy fires the gun. The only clear indication is cringes from bystanders and witnesses covering their ears.
In all, three shots are fired. One hits Elderts in the chest.
At 2:43 a.m., Deedy rises from the ground, the front of his shirt stained with blood. Elderts had fallen on top of him as they tumbled to the ground.
Police arrive at 2:45 a.m.
Jurors are now in the position of trying to figure out what actually happened in McDonald’s that early Saturday morning. Attorneys plan to call witnesses who will explain what they saw in an effort to match their testimony to what can be seen on the video.
The defense says Deedy was simply protecting Perrine from bullies and only responded with deadly force when he and Gutowski were attacked by Elderts and Medeiros, who had been threatening them.
Deedy argues that it was his duty as a law enforcement officer to step in to protect Perrine and his friends. One narrative Hart hopes to build is that Elderts was going for Deedy’s gun while they fought.
Futa, on the other hand, is trying to prove that Deedy was drunk and looking for a fight when he approached Elderts. Part of this argument will likely hinge on the fact that Deedy appears to have kicked Elderts. Deedy, of course, describes it as a defensive maneuver.
Futa has also raised the notion that Deedy could not have been acting as a law enforcement official based on U.S. State Department rules that say he shouldn’t have been armed while under the influence.
Deedy was in Honolulu as part of a diplomatic security detail for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.