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Trial under way in shooting of police officer

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Prosecutors played dramatic, 9-1-1 calls Monday in Clayton County Superior Court, during the trial of a Hampton man charged with shooting a Clayton County police officer, who was responding to a domestic dispute.

Gerald Lewis Benn is accused of shooting Clayton County Police Officer Yolanda Shumaker, 31, on Feb. 27, at Benn's home, located at 1258 Pebble Beach Lane in Hampton.

"Gerald Benn shot a police officer," Benn's former fiancé, Paula Theus, said during a frantic 9-1-1 call the night of the incident.

Shumaker had accompanied Theus to the couple's home so Theus could get some belongings, after Benn allegedly snatched an engagement ring off of Theus' finger at a nearby gas station, and drove off leaving her stranded, according to authorities.

Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson told the jury during opening arguments Monday, that Shumaker "looks up the stairs and sees a shotgun, and tries to get between him [Benn] and the shotgun,"

"The defendant stands up and says, 'You think this is a [expletive] joke?'" said Lawson. "He runs up the steps and shoots the police officer [Shumaker]. Fortunately, she had a bullet-proof vest on, because she would have been dead," said Lawson.

Lawson called Theus as her first witness Monday. "We [Theus and her daughter] just started screaming and started running," said Theus.

Theus testified that after Benn allegedly shot Shumaker, he followed behind her and her 18-year-old daughter, Raquel Theus, shooting at them as they ran to a neighbor's house.

Theus placed the 9-1-1 call from the neighbor's house.

Lawson told the court that, after being shot, Shumaker made her way to her patrol car parked in front of Benn's house and called for back-up. Benn allegedly fled the scene in a Ford Explorer and led police on a chase. The chase ended on Hwy. 54, just inside Fayetteville, and Benn was arrested, according to authorities.

During opening arguments, Lawson told the jury that she will call approximately 20 witnesses.

Benn's attorney, Peter Simmons, told the jury that the case is one of mistaken identity. "We expect evidence to show that Mr. Benn did not know who Officer Shumaker was when she entered his home," Simmons said. Simmons said Shumaker was wearing a "yellow unmarked coat," at the time of the incident.

Lawson said evidence will show that Shumaker was wearing a raincoat, but was wearing a full police uniform underneath the coat, and had arrived at the home in a marked police vehicle.

Benn is charged with aggravated battery on a peace officer, aggravated assault on a peace officer, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, robbery, aggravated assault, criminal damage to property, and fleeing and attempting to elude a police officer.

The robbery charge stems from the accusation that Benn snatched a diamond engagement ring off of Theus' finger. The aggravated assault charge stems from Benn's alleged attempt to shoot Theus, after he allegedly shot Shumaker.

The trial continues today at 9:30 a.m., before Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons. Benn is being held in the Clayton County Jail.