A prosecutor told jurors Wednesday that Dennis Jaeger tried to kill a Las Vegas police officer at his home three years ago, but his attorney said evidence will prove law enforcement officials made the defendant a scapegoat.
Defense attorney Thomas Pitaro accused Metropolitan Police Department officials of lying and creating "a sham investigation, a pretense, in order to protect one of their own."
"On April 15, 1990, the holiest day in the Christian calendar, Easter Sunday, responding to an apparent intruder in his own back yard, he was shot twice in panic by Janet Beck," Pitaro said during his opening statement. "Janet Beck fired twice in panic, and she fired first."
Deputy District Attorney Arthur Noxon said Beck was responding to a domestic dispute at Jaeger’s 1672 Gabriel Drive home that night and discovered his wife, Brenda, had been locked out of the residence.
The prosecutor said Beck and another officer made several attempts to get Jaeger’s attention by pounding on doors and loudly announcing their presence.
Beck then went to the back of the home and continued trying to contact Jaeger, Noxon said.
As the officer turned away, Jaeger opened the back door and pointed a .44-caliber Magnum at her, Noxon said.
The prosecutor said Beck identified herself and told him to drop the gun, but he continued aiming at her. She recalled seeing a flash from his gun and then from her own weapon as she took cover in some bushes, Noxon said.
Pitaro said Jaeger had fallen asleep after his wife stormed out of the home that night and only awakened after dogs started barking. He said nationally recognized experts will show the officer fired at Jaeger first.
"When he came out, she was surprised. She was scared," Pitaro said.
He said Beck fired 11 rounds from her 9 mm weapon, but police never recovered a single slug other than the one that lodged in Jaeger’s foot. The defendant also suffered a gunshot wound to the side.
Pitaro said Jaeger fired four shots, but none struck the police officer.
Jaeger has filed a civil lawsuit against Beck and the Police Department over the shooting. Beck and her partner also have sued Jaeger.
Pitaro said Jaeger is fortunate that he could afford to hire well-known experts to help with his defense.