Prosecutors strongly suggested Saturday that Las Vegas police officer Bryan Yant accidentally pulled the trigger as he kicked open the door to the bathroom where Trevon Cole was hiding.
Despite pointed questioning and contradictory physical evidence, Yant stood by his story that he fired the fatal shot only after Cole stood up, turned and thrust his hands toward Yant as if he had a gun.
"Unfortunately he made an aggressive act toward me. He made me do my job," Yant said on the witness stand on day two of the coroner's inquest into Cole's death.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Owens noted that the evidence -- such as the position of Cole's body, the downward angle of the bullet through his cheek to his neck, and testimony from fellow officers who did not hear both a door kick and gunshot -- pointed toward an accidental discharge simultaneous with the door kick.
"That version is consistent. Your version is not. How do you explain that?" Owens asked.
Yant stuck by his version, unable to explain the differences.
"I'm not a forensic scientist,î he said. ìI'm not a physicist. I don't know. That's what I saw."
Yant testified that he kicked open the door during the June 11 drug raid and saw Cole squatting in front of the toilet, apparently flushing marijuana. The flashlight on his AR-15 rifle had just failed, but Yant said there was enough light in the darkened bathroom to identify Cole and his actions.
He said the 21-year-old 290-pound man rose to his feet while moving his hands forward in a shooting motion. Yant said he also saw a black or gray shiny object in Cole's right hand.
"I saw a glimmer or something shiny as he was coming toward me," he said.
After Cole had fallen dead, he was still clutching a yellow tube of lip balm in his left hand. Police found no gun in the bathroom or apartment.
Earlier in the day, Yant's sergeant testified about a number of errors leading up to Cole's death.
Sgt. John Harney, who ran the team of narcotics officers conducting the raid, testified that the mistakes began with Yant's affidavit seeking a search warrant.
In Yant's affidavit, he mistakenly said Cole had a history of drug trafficking. Despite having a copy of Cole's California driver's license complete with a physical description and date of birth, Yant confused Cole with a Trevon Cole from Houston and California, who was seven years older, at least 3 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter.
"You would agree that is sloppiness, at the very least," Chief Deputy District Attorney Christopher Laurent asked.
"No," Harney said, calling it a mistake.
Harney said Yant should have compared the birthdates and physical descriptions of both Trevon Cole's to verify the information.
Laurent repeated the sloppiness theme when asking about the entry into the apartment. The front door needed four hits with the metal battering ram before it opened, which was longer than usual and potentially gave people inside more time to arm themselves or destroy evidence.
"The entry was sloppy," Laurent said.
"If you want to use that adjective," Harney responded.
He added that the delayed entry added just a matter of seconds, and the officers entered more slowly and carefully as a result.
Laurent also pressed Harney on Yant's decision to kick open the bathroom door despite having no backup officer and a non-working flashlight.
"Is that safe?" Laurent asked.
"Not if it's pitch black and there's no one with you, no," Harney said.
After the shooting, Harney testified, Yant told him Cole moved toward him with a gun in his outstretched hands as soon as he kicked open the bathroom door.
"He said, 'Sergeant, he came at me,'" Harney said.
The inquest began Friday with nine witnesses, including Cole's fiancee, who was hiding in a bedroom closet when officers burst into the apartment.
The coroner's jury of seven people will decide if Yant's actions were justified, excusable or criminal.