Oklahoma City police officer Katie Lawson testified Wednesday that she tried to chase a rifle-wielding man after they exchanged gunshots but quickly discovered she was seriously wounded.
“In my mind I'm going to go after the suspect,” Lawson told a jury in the trial of three family members accused of plotting to kill her. “It felt like I had bricks on my legs.”
Lawson managed to walk a few steps before reality set in: She had been shot in both legs, and blood was running down her face from a head wound. She began to feel dizzy.
“I thought I might pass out and fall to the ground and never wake up,” she said.
Lawson had just finished assisting Oklahoma County sheriff's deputy Heath Oldham on a traffic stop when she was ambushed near the intersection of NW 38 and Miller by 19-year-old Hector Escalante, who pleaded guilty last week to shooting Lawson with a civilian version of an M-16 military assault rifle.
Escalante, his brother Alex Mercado, 18, and their mother, Vilma Escalante, 53, are charged with conspiracy in the Aug. 29, 2010, shooting of Lawson, who survived six gunshot wounds and returned to work in March.
Prosecutors accuse the three of acting together against Lawson in an attempt to free the young men's father, Hector Mercado, who was arrested in front of the family's house at 2705 NW 38.
Defense attorneys contend that neither Vilma Escalante nor Alex Mercado conspired to shoot Lawson. They said Hector Escalante acted alone because he was afraid his father was going to be deported if he was arrested.
Lawson was shot after driving away from the traffic stop and noticing a suspicious man in a nearby parking lot. She testified seeing muzzle flashes after the man raised the barrel of a rifle and began firing multiple rounds.
“It goes through my mind, is this really happening,” Lawson says. “My next thought is I need to get my gun out.”
Despite being wounded, Lawson returned fire and called in the location and a description of the suspect before getting out of her car to give chase.
Lawson described in detail the injuries to her arm, legs, stomach, back and head, and showed her scars to the jury.
She testified she still has bullet fragments and metal fragments from her car door embedded in her skin.
Prosecutors displayed the officer's bullet-riddled door and the bloodstained uniform, bullet-resistant vest and bloodstained T-shirt she was wearing the night she was shot.
Also on Wednesday, a tow-truck driver testified that moments before he heard gunshots, a visibly “upset” Vilma Escalante approached Oldham and touched him on the shoulder, shouting “my son, my son, my son.”
Frank McConnell said her demeanor changed during the gunfire, which he said came from behind the house.
“She calmed down and walked away,” McConnell said. “She just kind of walked away like nothing had happened.”