Monday, 24 Jun 2024

Westminster shooter Jeremy Webster claimed insanity in road rage

The man accused of killing a 13-year-old boy and wounding three others in a road-rage shooting spree in Westminster five years ago told police afterward that he’d watched himself carrying out the attack as though he were out of his body, prosecutors said at the start of his jury trial Wednesday.

Jeremy Webster, 27, has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the charges of first-degree murder, attempted murder and related counts in connection with the June 14, 2018, attack in the parking lot of a dentist’s office at the corner of West 80th Avenue and Sheridan Boulevard.

Prosecutors with the 17th Judicial District Attorney’s Office on Wednesday rejected Webster’s claim that he was insane during the shooting and said he should be held criminally responsible for the crime.

“Insanity is just an excuse,” Chief Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Prince said during opening statements in Adams County District Court.

The incident began when Meghan Bigelow, who was on her way to a routine dentist appointment with her three children, cut in front of Webster as she tried to yield to emergency vehicles on Sheridan Boulevard. She testified Wednesday that she offered Webster an apologetic wave as she merged into his lane, but that he immediately began screaming obscenities at her.

Webster then followed the family to the parking lot of the dentist’s office, where he pulled in behind their vehicle. Meghan Bigelow and her children got out of their vehicle. She ushered her children toward the dentist’s office, and faced Webster. She and Webster yelled obscenities at each other.

Webster then started to drive away, and Meghan Bigelow pulled out her phone to try to get an image of Webster’s license plate.

“I said, ‘We’ll see what the cops think about that,’” she testified.

As soon as she said that, Webster backed back into the parking lot, grabbed a handgun from his car, got out and approached the family, who tried to retreat. Meghan Bigelow testified Wednesday that she told her children to run. She then walked away from them, hoping to draw Webster away from her sons.

“I remember thinking, ‘Lead him away from the boys,’” she said.

Webster shot Meghan Bigelow in the back. She fell between two cars and he shot her again while she was on the ground, she testified Wednesday, at times crying and pausing to regain her composure.

“I remember coming back into consciousness and laying there and thinking, ‘Don’t move, maybe you won’t be shot again,’” she testified. “But I was shot again, in the head. I remember thinking, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m already down.’”

Webster next targeted the children. Prince said Webster walked up to 8-year-old Asa Bigelow, who was crouched down with his hands over his head, and shot the boy in the head and back.

“The child is completely crouched down, covering the back of his head with his arms,” witness Ashley Lucero testified. “The gunman — it looked as though the gun was flush against his head. I heard the pop.”

A Westminster police officer who was among the first to the scene, Charles Rush, testified Wednesday that when he found Asa, the boy’s eye was dislocated and his intestines were outside his body. The officer paused several times during the emotional testimony Wednesday to compose himself.

After shooting Asa, Webster approached 13-year-old Vaughn Bigelow Jr., who was kneeling in a grassy area, and shot him in the head at point-blank range, Prince said.

“He held the barrel of the gun to the back of the child’s head and pulled the trigger,” she told jurors.

Vaughn Jr. was killed. Asa and Meghan were severely wounded but survived. Another brother escaped without physical injuries.

Meghan Bigelow testified that doctors removed a third of her large intestine after the shooting, and that she suffered a brain injury, partial face paralysis and the loss of hearing in her right ear. She had to relearn to walk and use her right hand, she said.

She did not find out until two weeks after the attack that her oldest son had been killed, she testified.

After targeting the family, Webster “locked eyes” with a man who had watched the attack while sitting in his truck in the parking lot with his daughter, waiting for a dentist appointment, Prince said. Webster shot the man, John Gale, who survived.

When he ran out of ammunition, Webster got back into his car and drove away. He completed the errand he’d set out to do that day before returning to work and then heading to his home in Colorado Springs. Police caught him on Interstate 25 near Castle Rock.

Webster’s defense attorneys did not offer opening statements Wednesday and did not cross-examine the first three witnesses who recounted the shooting.

Webster’s plea of not guilty by reason of insanity means that he claims he cannot be held criminally responsible for the killing because he was legally insane at the time of the crime. If he is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a mental health facility for treatment, rather than prison, and could eventually be released if he is later found to be sane.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Webster faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole.

Prior testimony in the case has shown that Webster had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was on anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications at the time of the shooting. But Prince said Wednesday that jurors would hear from Webster’s doctor at the time, who would testify that he’d been managing his symptoms and his condition had been improving in the months before the shooting.

Prince said that even as Webster claimed to have had an out-of-body, “third person” experience during the attack, he also recounted the shooting in minute detail.

“He provides a level of detail that will show you he had the specific memory of what happened, of what he did,” she said, suggesting that clear memory coupled with his actions after the killings — hiding the gun in a backpack and fleeing the scene — point to his sanity.

“He knew exactly what he was doing,” she said.

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