Former Las Vegas police officer Aron Carpenter insisted he was not pursuing Ivan Carrillo last year when the 26-year-old's vehicle crashed into oncoming traffic, a collision that killed him and injured another.
Carpenter testified in his own defense Monday, telling a District Court jury he was driving the speed limit with his lights and sirens off when the fatal crash happened in May 2010.
Prosecutors say Carpenter disobeyed orders to end the pursuit, followed Carrillo at 60 mph and bumped his car, triggering a three-vehicle crash.
Carpenter faces one count each of felony reckless driving and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.
But Carpenter said testimony earlier in the trial that suggested he was driving over the speed limit at the time of the crash was wrong. His speedometer read 40 to 45 mph just before Carrillo slowed down and entered the lane occupied by his police cruiser, Carpenter said.
Carpenter said he felt a "bump" but wasn't sure if Carrillo hit him or if he was feeling the antilock braking system of his vehicle. There has been no forensic evidence to show that the two vehicles touched.
Carpenter said that after the bump he "started praying there wouldn't be an accident."
During his testimony, the former officer said he was not, in terms of his police training, in "pursuit" of Carrillo because he was driving the speed limit, did not have his lights and sirens on and was within his designated patrol area.
"I obeyed the order," Carpenter said, referring to a sergeant's command to end the pursuit.
The chase last year began about 10:20 p.m. May 19 after police received a report of a possible drunken driver on the east side of the valley. Carrillo was high on methamphetamine and was weaving in and out of traffic.
After Carrillo refused to pull over, Carpenter and officer Andrew Charles Ubbens, who were in separate cars, followed his vehicle north on Nellis and Las Vegas boulevards. The two officers were ordered three times to end the chase. At one point, Ubbens attempted a PIT -- Precision Intervention Technique -- maneuver, which failed to stop Carrillo.
Carpenter said he did reply to the command to end to the pursuit stating, "We are no longer in pursuit," over his radio, but that wasn't recorded because other officers were talking at the same time.
Carpenter said he continued to "travel behind" Carrillo because he believed Carrillo was a danger to others. Carpenter pointed to two specific incidents where Carrillo appeared to be out of control and about to crash during the incident.
"I felt like I was doing my job," said Carpenter, who was fired by the Metropolitan Police department in March.
During a tense cross-examination, prosecutor Lawrence O'Neale contended Carpenter's actions led to the crash. "Did you ever consider that the danger to the public was you?" O'Neale asked.
The prosecutor pointed to earlier testimony that suggested the two vehicles were going 60 mph at the time of the crash and disputed Carpenter's testimony that he was driving no faster than 45 mph.
Carpenter explained that Carrillo had slowed and then accelerated after the "bump."
A skeptical O'Neale asked if Carrillo just "suddenly slowed down and turned into your lane." Carpenter curtly answered, "Yes, sir."
O'Neale then said, "You were there to protect and serve. How did you serve Ivan Carrillo?"
Before Carpenter could respond, defense attorney Bret Whipple objected and Judge Elissa Cadish sustained the objection.
Earlier in the day, Roxana Correa, the mother of Carrillo's children, testified that Carrillo was acting paranoid the day of the crash.
Correa, who was held in the county jail over the weekend after refusing to testify Friday, said Carrillo had stalked her the day of the crash after she had told him she didn't want to see him anymore.
Correa also said Carrillo told her his life would not be worth living without her. Correa said she was afraid of him and wouldn't let him hug his daughter.
The jury also heard testimony from defense witness Steven Winne, an accident reconstruction consultant, who said in his estimation the vehicles were going about 51 mph at the time of the crash. But he also added that the vehicles could have been going as fast as 61 mph or as slow as 41 mph.
Ubbens in January pleaded no contest to failure to use due care, a misdemeanor. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine and to perform 50 hours of community service.
Monday was the sixth day of testimony in Carpenter's trial. Attorneys are expected to give their closing arguments today .
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039.