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'... I didn't sign up to die tonight ... '
Police officer, who survived shooting, testifies

By Linda Looney-Bond

lbond@news-daily.com

Clayton County Police Officer Yolanda Shumaker took the stand Tuesday and gave dramatic testimony in the trial of a Hampton man accused of shooting her in February.

Gerald Lewis Benn, 45, is accused of shooting Shumaker when she arrived at his home at 1258 Pebble Beach Lane, answering a domestic-dispute call.

Shumaker had accompanied Benn's fiancée, Paula Theus, to the home, Feb. 27, so Theus could get some belongings, after Theus and Benn had a disagreement earlier that day, according to testimony in the trial.

"As soon as we stepped in the house, before I could get anything out of my mouth, the defendant said, 'You think I'm a [expletive] game?' Shumaker testified.

"He was just very wild, and crazy-looking, out of control," she said. "I was looking around and I saw a shotgun; he was yelling so loud, so I turned the volume of my [police] radio up so I could hear [radio conversation]."

Shumaker testified that she could not immediately call for a back-up officer, because there was conversation taking place on the police radio, and she said it's not possible to break into conversation on the radio. "I had my hand on the mic, so when the next person stopped talking, I could call for help," she said.

Shumaker said she began to walk up the stairs in the interior of the home to secure the shotgun she had spotted. "I'm thinking, 'What normal person keeps a shotgun by the front door?'" she said. At that time, she said, Benn pulled out a revolver.

"I turned and he had the gun pointed. I thought, I can't believe this man is actually trying to kill me. I have three kids," Shumaker said as she began to cry on the stand. "I had promised them I was going to take them to the movies in the morning, when I got off."

The 31-year-old officer testified that she is a widow, and has three sons, ages 7, 10 and 12.

Shumaker said Benn began shooting at her. "It [the shot] was so loud, I just went deaf in one ear. I thought to myself, I got to get out of here because I didn't sign up to die tonight. I got to get home to my kids."

Earlier during the trial in Clayton County Superior Court, District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson told the jury that if Shumaker had not been wearing a bullet-resistant vest, she would have been killed.

Shumaker testified, however, that, despite the vest she was wearing, the impact of one of the bullets did cause major injury. "I received a gunshot wound to the left side of my breast. It put a hole in it the size of a golf ball, it was just sunk in," Shumaker said.

The officer said she also had to undergo surgery, including a skin graft. She said she returned to work two months later.

During Shumaker's testimony, Lawson walked to the defense table, pointed at Benn and asked, "How certain are you that this is the man that shot you twice?"

"Two hundred percent," Shumaker said.

Defense Attorney Peter Simmons had told the jury Monday that Benn did not know who Shumaker was when she entered his home. Tuesday, during cross examination, defense co-counsel, Johnny Castaneda, asked Shumaker whether she had worn a badge on the yellow raincoat that she wore over her uniform the night of the incident. Shumaker answered that she did not.

Lawson later asked how many badges Shumaker had been issued. The officer answered, one. "Have you ever seen another officer put a badge on the raincoat?" Lawson asked. "No," Shumaker answered.

Lawson tendered into the evidence the raincoat, jacket, shirt and bullet-resistant vest that the officer was wearing the night of the shooting, and asked Shumaker to put them on, over the T-shirt she was wearing, while in the courtroom.

Lawson argued that although Shumaker wore the plain, unmarked raincoat over another jacket, and her uniform that night, the officer's shoulder radio, badge and equipment belt were still plainly visible, and identified Shumaker as a police officer.

Castaneda asked Shumaker, "Did you say anything to Mr. Benn when you were in the house?"

"I didn't get the chance to say anything," Shumaker said. "As soon as we walked in, he started yelling," she said.

Shumaker testified that she drove her marked Clayton County Police vehicle to the home, and that she parked it in front of the house, before entering along with Theus and Theus' 18-year-old daughter.

The trial, before Superior Court Judge Matthew Simmons, resumes today at 9 a.m.