In what one court observer describes as a surprise move, San Diego police officer Frank White testified in his own defense Tuesday, describing the night he encountered an “upset and crazy” driver in Oceanside.
White is on trial facing felony weapons violations stemming from an off-duty confrontation with Rachel Silva in an Oceanside parking lot. He faces up to nine years in prison if convicted.
The shooting occurred in March 2008 when Silva, who was driving with her 8-year old son in the car, allegedly became involved in a road rage incident with the officer, who was driving with his wife.
White told the jury he had no idea why Rachel Silva was tailgating him so aggressively.
He said when she followed his car into the Lowe's parking lot, with her tires screeching and engine revving, he and his wife were both scared.
White says he was worried that the person following him may have have been a dangerous criminal he had arrested during his work as a San Diego police officer.
He says he was so scared that his "heart jumped into his throat" and his "face was flushed."
Silva and her son were shot but recovered. She is expected to plead the Fifth Amendment if called to testify, given the legal problems she still faces for her alleged role in the incident.
The boy, now 10, testified Thursday wearing a T-shirt with collar-length brown hair and glasses. He was accompanied to the stand by his father, a Marine who was serving in Iraq when his son was hit by a bullet.
The boy told the court about hearing his mother screaming at the time the incident took place.
He testified that he saw the man with the gun pointing at him and he described "curling up" and telling his mother the man had a gun.
During his testimony Tuesday, White also recalled the moments before the shooting saying that the first time he saw Rachel Silva behind the wheel, she looked "enraged... The veins on her neck" were popping out "like a horror movie, how enraged and angry this person was," he said.
White said Silva "looked high" on methamphetamine. "If this person had a chance to kill me," he told the jury, "They're gonna kill me, because they're out of their mind."
White told the jury that when he pulled his gun on Silva, she did not respond. That made him think the driver "was out of their mind, completely out of their mind," he testified.
He said Silva's car looked like it was going to hit him and said he was "terrified" and fired his gun at her to "protect himself and his wife."
He said Silva was "still screaming and raging" even after he shot her twice in the arm.
White said he felt "devastated, awful" when he learned he had shot Silva's son.
He said the son was "an innocent victim" and it would have been "terrible" if the boy suffered major injuries because of the shots he fired into Silva's car.
On Monday, jurors moved to the parking lot behind the Vista county courthouse to inspect the cars involved in the case.
White's attorney has said Silva is to blame because she threatened the officer with her car. During testimony, an accident reconstruction expert testified Silva was driving about 5-10 mph when the cars collided, but White's attorney challenged that.
Attorneys stayed late Monday for a hearing to determine whether Silva's alleged violent past could be introduced in the case. Judge Harry Elias is expected to rule on this sometime this week.