Lisa Ann Davis Lebis listens to former Clayton County sheriff’s Investigator Josh Waites testify to charging her after she kicked him in the chest and hit him during her arrest Dec. 17, 2012. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — The single round that killed Clayton County Police Officer Sean Callahan hit his left shoulder in two places before entering the rear of his neck, a medical examiner testified Thursday.
Callahan’s family left the courtroom as Dr. Keith Lehman of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab took the stand Thursday to explain autopsy photos and his findings. The jury saw graphic photos of Callahan taken the day he died, Dec. 18, 2012, about 14 hours after being shot, Lehman said.
Callahan was shot by Tremaine Lebis, who was immediately shot and killed by another officer. Under Georgia’s party to a crime law, commonly referred to as the “hand of one is the hand of all” statute, his widow, Lisa Lebis, is being charged with murder in Callahan’s death although she didn’t pull the trigger.
She is the first woman in Clayton County to stand trial for murder in the death of a police officer and, because of her own felony record, faces life without parole if convicted of murder under Georgia’s “three strikes” law. If the jury rejects the murder count but convicts on the other 15 charges, Lebis faces a maximum of 52 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
Lehman said the bullet hit Callahan’s shoulder, exited and then entered his neck, causing serious internal injuries. The round, determined to have been fired from a modified .357-caliber Glock handgun, fractured Callahan’s first cervical vertebra.
The gunshot caused bleeding around the spinal cord, including the tissues around the base of the brain, Lehman said. Callahan, 24, suffered several complications as a result of that single gunshot.
“It caused a cardiac arrest,” he said, “and extensive swelling on the brain. It also caused hypotension and fluid leaking out of blood vessels in many places. He was in a very serious state of health.”
Lehman said the manner of death was determined to be homicide.
Callahan was shot when he and Officer Waymando Brown responded the afternoon of Dec. 17, 2012, to a dispute at Stockbridge Motel 6. Motel management told Tremaine Lebis, 41, and his wife, Lisa Ann Davis Lebis, of McDonough to leave when they could no longer afford to rent Room 226, where they had lived since Dec. 10.
Witnesses testified Wednesday that Lisa Lebis was belligerent and rude, cursing and acting aggressively inside the lobby office when she was told she had to leave the motel. The workers feared for their safety and called 911 for police assistance.
Once Brown said he confirmed damage to the room, he signaled to Callahan to take the couple into custody, starting with Tremaine Lebis, a career criminal who’d spent 15 years in state prison for shooting someone in the head before being released seven months before the shooting. He was to serve parole until 2016.
Tremaine Lebis reportedly told the officers, “I’m not going back to jail,” and ran from them around the back of Building 500. Brown and Callahan pursued him down a path 3.3 feet wide along the top of a retaining wall. Brown testified Wednesday that midway along the path, Lebis pulled a gun from his waistband, turned and fired once at Callahan.
Callahan fell from the wall into a wooded area. Brown returned fire, killing Lebis instantly. Brown, who is also a reservist in the U.S. Coast Guard, took about three months off from the police department before he was able to return after the shootings, he said Wednesday.
Former GBI firearms expert Kyle Felix testified that the murder weapon fired by Lebis and recovered near his body was strangely-modified.
“There were several household items attached to it with black electrical tape, zip ties and shoestrings,” Felix said. “There was a BMW emblem, two hinges and a socket that held a scope.”
Jurors also heard from Walter Smith, a Clayton County jail physician. When Lisa Lebis was arrested, she told officials she was pregnant, diabetic, had a brain aneurysm and suffered from seizures.
“We did tests for pregnancy and they showed she was not pregnant,” Smith said.
Defense attorney Kenneth Ellis objected to the questioning of her medical history, which was sustained by Superior Court Judge Albert Collier, so Assistant District Attorney Jeff Gore discontinued the questioning and Smith left the stand without addressing the other alleged health issues.
The day’s last witness was Clayton County District Attorney Deputy Chief Investigator Steve A. Payne. Under direct examination by his boss, District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson, Payne narrated a video of the route taken by the three men the day of the shooting and of the surrounding area behind Building 500.
Payne also confirmed Lisa Davis Lebis’ conviction of aggravated assault and theft by taking in 2002 in Fulton County. According to Georgia Department of Corrections, she was sentenced to a year in prison but went into Fulton County Jail Feb. 16, 2005, and was released the same day.
Payne lastly testified to the authenticity of the Lebis marriage license. The couple married June 9, 2012, in Henry County — weeks after Tremaine Lebis was released from state prison.
Previous witnesses testified that Lisa Davis Lebis showed no concern for Callahan, only for her husband. Brown testified that she yelled at him, ‘Did you (expletive) kill him? Where the (expletive) is he?’ referring to her husband as Brown tried to render first aid to Callahan.
“She was bonkers,” Brown said on Wednesday.
Motel workers said she stormed back inside the lobby after the shooting and threatened them, more concerned with avenging her husband’s shooting than the fact that a police officer was clinging to life just yards away.
“She got in my face, telling me I’d better hope they didn’t kill (her husband) or she’d sue Motel 6,” said then-general manager Ebony Montgomery on Wednesday. “She said, ‘If he dies, I’m going to sue your (expletive), the motel and the cops, too.’ I was in a state of shock, that in the middle of this, she’d want to fight, even with the police there.”
Inside the motel room where the couple spent eight days before the shooting, police found firearms and other weapons, and ammunition — all in violation of their statuses as felons.
Callahan of Kennesaw is the first Clayton County police officer to die by gunfire in the line of duty. He’d been a police officer for about four months. At the time of Callahan’s death, it had been 17 months since Clayton County Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Daly, 55, became the first countywide officer in Clayton to die by gunfire in the line of duty. His killer, Veasna Johnathan Bun, 19, is serving life without the possibility of parole in Macon State Prison.