Clayton County Police Officer Waymando Brown re-enacts the shooting of accused cop killer Tremaine Lebis during the trial of Lebis’ widow, Lisa Ann Lebis. Lebis faces life in prison without parole if convicted of murder in the death of Clayton County Police Officer Sean Louis Callahan in December 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Darlene Callahan Rogers wept openly in Clayton County Superior Court Wednesday as the last recorded images of her son and the details of his final moments were presented to a trial jury.
It was an emotional first day of testimony in the state’s case against Lisa Ann Lebis, 41, who is charged with murder under Georgia’s party to a crime law in the December 2012 death of Clayton County Police Officer Sean Callahan. District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson admits that Lebis didn’t pull the trigger — her husband, career criminal Tremaine Lebis, did.
However, Callahan’s co-worker, Officer Waymando Brown, witnessed the shooting and returned fire, killing Lebis at Motel 6 in Stockbridge. His widow, who is also a convicted felon, is being held responsible for Callahan’s death because the death occurred during the alleged commission of a felony of which she was a part, Lawson said.
Jurors heard a panicked Brown’s 911 call, too.
“Got a bush bond,” he said, referring to a suspect who is running on foot. “Shots fired, officer down.”
With Lawson standing in for Callahan and Assistant District Attorney Jeff Gore
substituting for Tremaine Lebis, Brown re-enacted the events leading to the shooting.
Previous testimony from motel workers alleged the couple rented a room Dec. 9 and stayed until Dec. 17 when their money ran out and workers asked them to leave. Angry at being forced out, Lisa Lebis cursed at the general manager and an associate and slammed the room keys on the counter before storming out of the office, according to testimony.
The workers said they feared for their safety and also noticed damage to the room so they called 911 to get police assistance in removing the couple from the property.
Brown said when he and Callahan arrived, they found the couple moving out of the room and piling their belongings on the sidewalk outside the door. Callahan stayed outside to monitor Tremaine Lebis’ movements while Brown inspected the room with Lisa Lebis.
“She was shaking, uneasy and mentioned something about the room already being ‘like this,’” said Brown, who said he noticed damage to the bed, chest and walls.
The couple had also shared the room with three pit bulldogs, he said, which were allowed to use the carpet to relieve themselves.
“It was a high 8 or 9 on the smell scale,” Brown said.
Brown said he left the room and signaled to Callahan the couple would be taken into custody for the damage. They moved to handcuff Tremaine Lebis first, he said, because they could see he had a pocketknife.
“We wanted to contain him before his significant other,” Brown said.
Judge Albert Collier allowed Brown to leave the stand and, with Lawson and Gore, re-enact the incident. As the two officers tried to handcuff Tremaine Lebis, Brown said his wife watched from a few feet away.
“As I got close and reached to cuff him, he touched my belt,” Brown said. “He kept his eyes on mine like he was distracting me from what he was doing with his hand.”
Brown said Tremaine Lebis began resisting right away, telling the officers, “I’m not going back to jail.” Brown said he used his electronic control device, commonly called a Taser, on Lebis. But Lebis broke free and ran from the officers toward the back of one of the motel’s buildings.
Brown’s patrol car dash camera recorded Lebis running from him and Callahan. It was the last time Callahan’s live image was captured before he was shot just minutes later. The audio of gunshots was not recorded. Rogers wept and left the courtroom after seeing her son displayed on a big screen.
Once the men were out of visual range, Brown, Lawson and Gore got into position in court to show what happened next. Brown testified that the chase continued up an incline along a narrow path between the building and a retaining wall. As the path grew steeper, the embankment below deepened, he said.
Each man was about 20 feet apart from the other, Brown said.
“Lebis was running like this,” he said, swinging both arms back and forth. “Suddenly, his hands were more in front of him.”
Lebis pulled a modified Glock handgun from his waistband, turned toward the officers, got down on one knee and fired, Brown said. The gun had been modified to accommodate a shiv taped to the bottom of the handle and a light source affixed on the barrel, Brown said.
Callahan was hit in the neck near the nape.
“He was wearing a bulletproof vest, right?” Lawson said. “But it didn’t go up that high.”
Callahan fell down and over the wall, 20 feet to the ground. Brown said he returned fire, hitting Lebis, before approaching him and handcuffing him. He then jumped down to where Callahan landed and began rendering first aid.
“My training kicked in,” he said. “I rubbed his sternum. I kept thinking I have to try to get him back toward help but I knew there was no way to get him back over that wall.”
Brown said he attempted CPR and put pressure on the single gunshot wound. He also removed Callahan’s shirt and vest.
“He was starting to get blue at the lips and I knew that he was not getting good respiration,” he said. “I knew this was dangerous times. I knew the first five minutes after a trauma is pretty critical.”
While Brown waited for backup, he testified that he encountered another obstacle — Lisa Lebis. Testimony from Brown and other witnesses alleged she was angry, belligerent, rude and concerned only about her husband. Some witnesses testified she seemed intoxicated and oblivious to events around her.
“At any time did she say anything about Sean Callahan?” Lawson said. “Did you see shock or sadness?”
“No,” Brown said. “Her only concern was for her husband.”
In the middle of trying to save his co-worker’s life, Brown said he suddenly had to deal with Lisa Lebis screaming and yelling at him from the top of the retaining wall.
“She was yelling, ‘Did you (expletive) kill him? Where the (expletive) is he?’” Brown said. “She was bonkers.”
Her unexpected appearance terrified him, he said. She apparently didn’t realize her husband lay dead about 20 feet from where she yelled at Brown.
“I was more scared at that moment than at any time during the entire event,” Brown said. “I didn’t secure Tremaine Lebis’ weapon, which was up there, she was over our heads and we were both completely vulnerable.”
Brown said he had to stop chest compressions, stick his finger in Callahan’s wound to stop the bleeding and draw his weapon on Lisa Lebis.
“I kept yelling at her to show her hands,” Brown said. “Then I put out on the radio that I had another suspect at gunpoint.”
Lawson pointed out that the near-minute Brown spent on Lebis was a minute he couldn’t devote to helping Callahan.
“That one minute without CPR is impactful, right?” Lawson said. “A minute without good air circulating can be traumatic.”
Backup arrived to take Lisa Lebis into custody, he said, and Callahan was taken to a hospital. He died early the next morning, becoming the first Clayton County police officer to die by gunfire in the line of duty.
Because of her record, Lebis faces life without parole if convicted of murder. If jurors reject the murder charge, she could still spend up to 52 years in prison, all without the possibility of parole, if convicted on the rest of the 15 charges.
Testimony is expected to continue throughout the week.