The corporal bled. The gunman hid.
And Tampa police, in the earliest moments after learning one of their own was down, raced to do what they could.
Officers took the witness stand Monday in the first-degree murder trial of Humberto Delgado Jr. to describe what they experienced the night of Aug. 19, 2009.
Officer Vincent Gericitano had just finished a traffic stop when he heard something on the radio. It sounded like a struggle. “Lincoln 61,” the dispatcher called, trying to get the attention of Cpl. Mike Roberts, who had, minutes earlier, announced he was about to interrogate someone.
Roberts did not answer.
Gericitano headed his way.
As he drove to the intersection of Nebraska Avenue and Arctic Street, he heard a sergeant give codes: “10-33,” need an ambulance; “10-0,” the subject was armed. Upon arrival, Gericitano saw Cpl. Mike Roberts on the ground, struggling to breathe.
Gericitano shouted for a knife, cut off the corporal’s shirt, and began efforts to save his life.
A block away, a police dog traced a scent left on an abandoned duffel bag to a shed, a pile of wood and a man, tucked amid it. Officer Sandra Learned watched hands emerge, empty. “I’m sorry,” the voice said. “I’m sorry. God, I’m sorry.”
More officers descended to extract Delgado from the pile. One kicked him from behind; another pulled. They got him on his stomach and punched him until they could get his hands cuffed.
“I’m sorry,” Delgado repeated.
“I didn’t mean to do it … ”
Dashboard camera videos capture the muffled shouts of those at Roberts’ side, kneeling, performing CPR. “And one, and two, and three, and four … ”
Gericitano gave chest compressions. Officer Perry Anderson breathed into his lungs. A voice yelled, “Come on, Mike!”
In the courtroom, some cried. Others bowed their heads.
Prosecutor Karen Stanley asked Gericitano a series of questions: “Did you go with Cpl. Roberts in the ambulance?”
“And you went to the hospital?” His voice broke. “Yes ma’am.”
“And you were there when he was pronounced?”
He answered, “Yes ma’am.”
Before the lights and the sirens, before the bullet, others had witnessed the scene.
Richard Farmer, a 29-year-old, seven-time felon, had planned to be in a strip club that night, but the cover charge was too high, so he left with a friend, car radio blasting, and they headed along Nebraska Avenue until they saw something that made them turn the volume down: a cop and a homeless man, Farmer said, “fitting to have problems.”
The police officer was trying to approach the man, but the man kept walking away. So the officer shot the man with a Taser.
“I was thinking about when the police Tased me,” Farmer said. “I thought he was going to fall like I fell.”
But the man did not fall. One of the stun gun’s prongs landed in his dreadlocks. Farmer watched the man reach to pull the other out of his shoulder.
Then, Farmer said, there was a fight. It ended with the officer, unconscious on his back, and the homeless man, bending over him, punching.
“And what happened next?” the prosecutor asked.
Farmer replied, “The homeless man shot the police.”
A defense attorney highlighted inconsistencies in Farmer’s statements, about whether Delgado was holding anything as he hit Roberts and whether, afterward, Delgado said anything. He also noted that Farmer had been drinking and that in the 911 call he placed, he mentioned getting a reward for his cooperation.
Michael Hamberg was driving by as he caught the earliest scene of the night — a homeless man leaning over a shopping cart and a police officer yelling at him to get down on the ground.
Hamberg kept his eye on the two as he continued. In his rear view, they remained about 15 feet apart. It wasn’t until he’d left them, and traveled seven blocks away, that he heard something that would register only once the news had spread the next day:
A loud pop.
St. Petersburg Times