Multiple forensic crime scene investigators testified as expert witnesses on Tuesday, day 5 of the Mark Harrison Trial in Riley County District Court.
The 38-year-old Manhattan engineer is charged with three counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer after a stand-off that resulted in one RCPD officer being shot in the leg in January 2018. He’s also charged for property damage. Prosecutors argue Harrison intended to kill Sgt. Pat Tiede and two Geary County SWAT officers when he shot at them following an argument with his wife. The defense doesn’t dispute Harrison fired that day, but say he never meant to kill anyone and never fired directly at anyone unexposed.
Based on physical and video evidence, the defense presented expert-crafted diagrams of how Sgt. Tiede fled, the bullet’s possible path to Tiede’s leg and Harrison’s estimated line of sight from where he was seen to be. Crime scene analyst John Wilson testified that based on the video and that he saw the muzzle blast and glass of the window being shot appearing to explode straight out rather than toward the camera, “there’s no way” that Harrison was pointing the gun at Tiede on the first shot that did not hit the officer.
He also says the second shot which hit Tiede was a ricochet off of a concrete sidewalk in front of the Harrison residence and was aimed at Tiede’s cruiser — pointing to damage in the walkway that tested positive for copper as potential proof. On cross examination, Wilson answered that he did not perform any of his own shooting test to verify his opinion. He says he could clearly see the direction based on the path shown in the video of the double pane window breaking.
Forensic scientist Aaron Brudenell testified that he could not tell the direction of the bullet by the video alone as he could not identify a muzzle blast, saying that glass explodes straight out regardless of the angle of a bullet passing through it. He also says its clear based on the damage on the bullet that it did ricochet into Tiede.
Brudenell performed shooting tests using a gun with the same barrel length, rifling characteristics and ammunition at the angle the defense claims Harrison’s ricochet struck and damaged the sidewalk before hitting Tiede and multiple others. He says the damage on the bullet and the sidewalk do not match because for the bullet to cause that much damage to the cement, it would have shown different forms of damage and deformation and he could not replicate it in tests.
Brudenell says of his test shots, the shot that most matched the bullet found to have hit Tiede was one that struck rocky soil instead of the concrete test target — leading him to believe the ricochet actually hit the gravel patch near where Tiede was when he was running before striking the officer.
The case continues Wednesday at 9 a.m. It will be day 6 of what is anticipated to be a 6-day trial.