Photo by Curt Yeomans
Accused cop killer Veasna Johnathan Bun spent more than two hours on the witness stand, Thursday, explaining why he shot Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly last year.
Veasna Johnathan Bun slouched in the witness chair, exhibiting disinterest, combativeness and sarcasm, as the third day of his murder trial — in the shooting death of Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly — proceeded Thursday.
Bun was the lone witness for his defense. He took the stand after prosecutors spent nearly two-and-a-half days putting up witnesses who tied him to Daly’s shooting. The accused showed little emotion, admitted that he shot Daly, and repeatedly tried to justify his actions by blaming the shooting on his own paranoia and “instincts.”
The 17-year-old claimed the shooting was an act of self-defense, fueled by paranoia. “My only concern was the fact that I could see somebody running up to my side of the car, with a gun in their hand, so that gave me all the motive to shoot whoever it was coming toward me,” Bun said.
“I opened my door, and when I lifted my gun, I really wasn’t taking an aim. I just shot ... to let the person know not to come any closer to me.
“After I fired the shot, I realized the bullet had struck a person. I looked at the person on the floor, and realized it was Officer Daly, and after a split second, I took off running.”
Bun’s testimony proved to be an intense period of the trial. Through his actions and some of his statements, he tended to paint an unflattering image of himself for the jurors. That was particularly evident when he repeatedly responded to some of Executive Assistant District Attorney Jason Green’s cross-examination questions with, “Can you dumb that question down for me, sir?” in a sarcastic tone.
At another point during cross-examination, he repeatedly refused to participate in a demonstration of how he shot Daly, even though Clayton County Superior Court Judge Deborah Benefield told him he had to comply with Green’s requests to do so. Bun claimed he felt uncomfortable participating in the demonstration, but eventually complied.
He also occasionally claimed to not remember exactly what happened — even though he also claimed it was frequently on his mind. “It’s not something I’m proud about,” he said. “It’s something I think about every day ... once it dawns back on me that I shot somebody, it’s going to stay with me forever.”
He said he never intended to kill Daly, and therefore, was not guilty of murder. “I’m not 100 percent guilty of everything,” he said. “I’m not guilty of malice murder, because I didn’t want to kill someone in cold blood.”
Bun said he became “paranoid” after he and his friend, Toan Nyugen, noticed a white pick-up truck following the car they were in on July 20, 2011. He explained that he did not know who was in the truck, but that he assumed it was someone who was out to get him.
“I thought it was people I’d gotten into trouble with at school,” said the teenager, who also testified that he dropped out of North Clayton High School midway through his 10th-grade year.
He said he pulled out a gun, and got ready to fire it, as a result of being followed by the pick-up truck. The truck contained undercover police officers. “I told Toan I’m getting ready to shoot at whoever it is, to get him off our tail,” Bun said.
Also, he claimed to have lied about what happened during the shooting to two investigators that interviewed him hours after Daly died. He said “85 percent” of what he told GBI Special Agent Jonathan Spurlock, and Clayton County District Attorney’s Office Investigator Steve Payne, during that interview was a lie.
A video recording of the interview was played for jurors. In the video, Bun claimed his “mind went blank” before he shot Daly, and that he had really intended to put the gun on the ground and surrender as he got out of the car.
Bun’s statements seemed to be conflicting at times. Although he said he planned to put the gun down, he later said he wanted to only shoot Daly in his bulletproof vest before running away.
“Was that what you were aiming for?” Spurlock asked him. The teenager replied: “Yes. If I really wanted to kill him, I would have shot him in the head, but I figured I’d just shoot him in the vest.”
Later, prosecutor Green came back to the issue, and asked Bun, “How did it benefit you to lie to Agent Spurlock, and Investigator Payne?”
Bun responded: “I didn’t think it would help me. I was just talking — just talking and lying.”
Earlier in the day, the state medical examiner, Dr. Jonathan Eisenstat, testified about the damage done to Daly’s body by two bullets. One bullet entered the deputy’s left shoulder, fractured some ribs, punctured the left lung, and became lodged in Daly’s lower rib cage. The other entered his left torso, just above his waist, and punctured his spleen, two blood vessels, his small intestines, and fractured his pelvic bone.
The bullets caused blood to leak into Daly’s abdomen and left lung, Eisenstat testified. “Either one of them could have been fatal,” he said.
The video also showed Bun telling investigators that he was afraid of what was going to happen to him after he shot Daly. During the interview, he indicated that he was suicidal following the shooting, but it was thoughts of his relatives that kept him alive. “I was planning to shoot myself in the shed,” he told the investigators. “But, I didn’t do that, because I was thinking about my family.”
As the interview came to a conclusion, Bun could be heard asking investigators what his punishment would likely be for killing Daly. “Am I eligible for execution?” he asked. “I actually want that to happen.”
Closing arguments are expected to take place Friday, and the jury will then be tasked with deciding Bun’s guilt, or innocence.