Photo by Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Minh Doan begins to cry as he testifies about watching fellow Deputy Rick Daly die after Daly was shot on July 20, 2011. Veasa Johnathan Bun is on trial this week for the shooting, on a long list of charges, including murder.
The recollection of watching Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly fall into a ditch, after being shot during a traffic stop, was enough to bring fellow Deputy Minh Doan to tears as he testified in the trial of the slain deputy’s accused killer, Veasa Johnathan Bun, on Tuesday.
Doan said he and Daly were responding — in separate vehicles — to a call for a uniformed deputy to pull over a vehicle Bun was riding in, on East Fayetteville Road, in Riverdale, on July 20, 2011. Daly got there first, and pulled Bun’s vehicle over. Doan said he watched his fellow deputy walk around the front of the vehicle Bun had been in, towards the passenger side door.
The deputy testified that he then heard two gun shots, and his attention quickly moved to see if his fellow deputy was OK.
“I was observing Deputy Daly and he ... took a couple of steps and he fell to the ground,” said Minh, as he tried to fight back his tears. As he spoke, several members of the Daly family who were present in the courtroom, including the slain deputy’s widow, Cheryl Daly, wiped away tears that had begun to stream down their faces.
Tuesday marked the first day of testimony in Bun’s trial. The 17-year old is facing 19 counts, including felony and malice murder, in connection with the shooting of Daly, who had stopped the vehicle Bun was in to arrest him on an outstanding warrant stemming from a January 2011 robbery. Undercover deputies had been following Bun, but they needed a uniformed deputy to arrest him.
It is a trial that has brought out a lot of emotions, and interest from members of Daly’s family, and local law enforcement. Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough briefly sat in on the proceedings while jurors were seated Tuesday morning, and several sheriff’s office employees flowed in, and out, of the proceedings through the day.
Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, who has recused herself from the case, periodically sat in. Lawson recused herself because she previously dealt with Bun when she was a Juvenile Court judge in the county.
Clayton County Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green urged jurors, in an emotionally charged opening argument, to “finish what Deputy Daly started,” by convicting Bun of murder.
“Deputy Richard Daly had no idea Johnathan Bun had declared open season on any police who dared to attempt to bring him here [to a courtroom],” Green told jurors. “Johnathan Bun thought that he was above and beyond the law. His attack on Richard Daly was sudden. His attack was vicious, and his attack was cowardly. He killed a real, live, genuine hero.”
Defense Attorney Lloyd Matthews did not give an opening argument, and did not explain his reason for that decision to court officials.
Prosecutors began presenting their case by dealing almost immediately with the events that transpired during the encounter between Bun and Daly. In addition to Doan, other prosecution witnesses who testified about seeing the shooting included the driver of the car Bun was riding in, and two undercover deputies from the Sheriff’s Office’s fugitive squad.
Toan Nyugen, the driver of the Honda Civic that Bun was riding in, testified that they had been driving to an unspecified location to smoke marijuana when they were pulled over by Daly. He said Bun pulled out a handgun when Daly began to pull them over. “I told him, ‘Don’t do anything stupid,’ ” Nyugen testified.
The driver later added that he believed Bun jumped out of the Civic, to confront Daly, before the vehicle came to a complete stop. “The front door was already open, and he was out of the car, and I’m hearing gunshots,” Nyugen said. “I saw there was a police officer behind my car shooting in the direction of Johnathan [after the initial shots were fired]. It happened in like seconds.”
Each witness who testified to seeing the shooting said Bun began shooting at other deputies on the scene before his gun jammed, and he ran into a nearby wooded area. Doan, whose testimony proved to be the most emotional of the trial’s first day, said he went to be at Daly’s side after Bun fled the scene.
“I raised him up in my arm, and I kept saying to him, ‘Daly, Daly, I’m here, I’m here, Daly,’ ” said Doan, as he continued to fight back his tears. “He looked up at me, and he responded with his eyes, but he never spoke to me.”
One of the undercover deputies testified that Bun was standing approximately two feet in front of Daly, when the deputy was shot. He said Daly fell backward after he was shot, and he also went to be at the deputy’s side while his partner chased Bun into the wooded area. “His eyes were rolled back in his head, and his body looked dead,” the undercover deputy testified.
At times, while witnesses testified about seeing the shooting, Bun appeared bored with the environment around him, by frequently slouching in his chair, with his head propped up by his left hand.
Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield has ruled that reporters are barred from identifying the undercover deputies in media reports, because of the nature of the officers’ work.
Jurors also heard recordings of the radio channel deputies used to communicate with the county’s 9-1-1 Center on the day of the shooting. One deputy could be heard reporting a “signal 50,” which employees from the center testified means an officer needs help. Another deputy could be heard on the recording telling a 9-1-1 dispatcher that “an officer is down.”
Green, also during his opening arguments, showed jurors a photo of a text message Bun allegedly sent to his girlfriend after Daly was shot. The text message read: “I just shot at a police .. im sorry .. bt my time ends here .. i love you .. n make sure the next guy treat u right [sic].”
The prosecution is expected to continue presenting its case when the trial resumes Wednesday, at 9 a.m.