Atlanta policeman weeps for self on witness stand

Suspended Atlanta Police Officer Reginald Fisher teared up Monday when he described learning the man he shot in a confrontation didn't have a gun.

"I had just shot an innocent man," he told the Fulton County Superior Court jury. "I'm sick to my stomach."

Prosecutor Clint Rucker questioned the reason for Fisher's tears. In questioning, he established the 42-year-old Fisher was weeping for being on trial for aggravated assault.

Fisher acknowledged he was not empathizing with Tremaine Miller, 29, who still carries the bullet from Fisher's .40-caliber pistol in the back of his neck.

Rucker noted that in two years, Fisher had never apologized to Miller, whom he shot when he mistook a cellphone for a gun.

Fisher said he was sorry Miller's actions had prompted him to fire when Fisher was moonlighting as a security guard on May 5, 2009.

"I have no problem with apologizing to Mr. Miller," said Fisher.

Rucker gestured to Miller, seated in a middle pew in the courtroom. "Go ahead," Rucker said.

Fisher paused, then leaned forward and in a flat voice, said: "Mr. Miller, I'm sorry about the events that happened."

"Is that it?" Rucker said.

"I'm done," Fisher said.

Fisher, who had been a police officer for just over a year at the time, testified the shooting was the act of a cop who feared for his life, not a trigger-happy one. He said he saw Miller park in a handicapped parking space at the apartment complex he was guarding in a high-crime area near Turner Field. Miller had come to the complex at 9 p.m. to give his quadriplegic aunt her medication.

Fisher said when Miller re-emerged from the apartments, he tried to give him a verbal warning about the illegal parking, but the young man ignored his calls and his knock on the car window. Instead Miller got back in his Dodge Charger, locked his doors and backed up.

Fisher said he thought he saw Miller swallow something he suspected was cocaine, and he pulled his pistol to stop the car.

Fisher said he shattered the driver's side window when Miller refused to get out. He said he fired when he saw Miller reach beneath his seat and come up with something he thought was a gun.

"I was protecting myself," Fisher said. "It is not uncommon for guns to be hidden away, tucked up under the seat."

Miller, who worked as a cook at a fast-food restaurant, testified last week that his hands were raised when Fisher shot him -- a version that was supported by other witnesses. Prosecutors argue Fisher wrongly suspected Miller, who was convicted for drug dealing in 2003, was dealing drugs, which explained the heavy-handed tactics.

Rucker noted that another police officer had testified that Fisher told him the night of the shooting that Miller was dealing drugs. Fisher denied making the statement.

"Since you had no intention of writing him a ticket or arresting him, why didn't you just let him leave?" Rucker asked. "Why did you take your ASP baton and break his window out?"

Fisher said Miller's behavior had caused the escalation. "It would have been reasonable [to let him drive off] if he didn't try to evade me," Fisher said. "Even if Mr. Miller didn't hear me, I guarantee he saw me."