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Trial of ex-cop begins

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Nine lives intersected. Twenty-one bullets flew. Utter chaos, in the words of one prosecutor, ensued.

The trial of former Duluth police Officer Jay Dailey opened Tuesday, detailing through witness accounts the incidents that shattered the communal normalcy of Sugar Hill's Level Creek Road on Feb. 1, 2008. The day two officers engaged in a gun battle with each other, prosecutors believe.

Dailey, a Duluth veteran of four years known as quiet and commendable, is accused of flagging down motorist Leresa Graham, who was en route to work, and assaulting her in the roadway. Prosecutors say he pointed a pistol at two bystanders, then shot and injured off-duty Fulton County police Cpl. Paul Phillips when he stopped to help.

Dailey's defense attorney, Jeff Sliz, concedes his client shot Phillips, whom he'd never met, and harassed motorists in an inexplicable, drunken rage. But Sliz argues his client has been overcharged by the state, in that some damning felonies he faces such as aggravated assault are evidence of reckless conduct, a lesser charge.

Sliz said his client comes from a long line of alcoholism and depression and had battled both illnesses to keep his dream of police work afloat. He'd slipped up that morning and bought vodka, Sliz said.

Prosecutors say Dailey left home about noon that day, crashed his Crown Victoria into a fire hydrant and waved for help.

In total, Dailey fired 17 rounds to Phillips' four, Cason said. Hospital blood tests showed Dailey's blood alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit at .23, Sliz said.

"I think it's fair to say the wheels came off," Sliz told jurors. "Evidence will show (Dailey) was out of it ... he has very little indication of what occurred."

* The state's first witness, Morgan Reed, now 13, testified she noticed a car parked in a church near her great-grandmother's home as it squealed from the lot and crashed. A man got out holding what looked like a gun, and the girl called her mother.

"It looked like he was talking to himself," Reed testified.

* Mindy Rehling lives a few dozen yards from the shooting scene. She testified she was getting ready for work when a man who looked distraught and angry raised a gun near the back of a parked SUV. She heard gunshots, dove to her floor and called 911, she testified.

* Barry Smith, an electrical technician from Sugar Hill, testified Dailey was the man who pointed a gun in his driver's window as he drove by. Smith sped away and flagged down Phillips, who said he'd "take care of it," Smith testified.

* Charles Sheldt, a Sugar Hill trucking company employee, also fingered Dailey as the man who pointed a handgun at him as he turned around to assist the distressed Graham. Sheldt told jurors he ducked, floored the gas and barreled away.

* Sugar Hill resident Kathy Santry stopped to help Graham and dove in a ditch when she saw two men trading gunfire, she testified.

"(Graham) was just crying very hard -- she couldn't talk," Santry said.

* Sherri Atkinson, of Suwanee, testified she was en route to pick up her kids from preschool when she saw a man fitting Dailey's description run across the road, adjusting a bullet-proof vest.

* Russell Bryant, solicitor for the City of Duluth, told jurors he'd met with Dailey that morning in Duluth Municipal Court for a pretrial conference. Nothing struck Bryant as unusual, nor did he detect alcohol, he testified.

"(Dailey) seemed to be his normal, almost shy self ... very quiet, very professional," Bryant said.

Donning a blue Oxford and paisley tie, Dailey stole glances to the gallery and laughed with his attorneys during the trial's opening day.

He's charged with aggravated assault on a peace officer, three counts of aggravated assault, four counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, terroristic threats and two counts of battery for allegedly striking Graham and dousing her with pepper spray.

Dailey faces 107 years in prison in the unlikely event he's convicted on all counts, said District Attorney Danny Porter.

Despite national interest in the case at the time of the shootings, Porter said only four jurors in a panel of 48 told attorneys they'd been exposed to pretrial publicity.

One of those jurors was selected for the pool of six men and eight women -- including alternates -- who will hear the trial, Porter said.

An earlier motion by the defense to suppress taped statements Dailey allegedly made to Gwinnett police in the hours after he was admitted to Gwinnett Medical Center was denied by Superior Court Judge Dawson Jackson, who is presiding.

In those tapes, expected to be played for jurors later this week, Dailey reportedly told police he'd downed 3/4 of a pint of Absolut vodka after the morning hearing in Duluth and feared he may have shot a cop.

Dailey told police he was expected to return to work that evening on the Duluth force, Gwinnett police Det. G. Lorenzo testified in a pretrial hearing Tuesday.

"He said he thought this was a situation of death-by-cop," Lorenzo testified.

Sliz argued the tapes did not clearly depict detectives reading Miranda rights to his client as he lay strapped in medical restraints in the hospital.

Dailey was fired by Duluth police days after his 2008 arrest. He has remained at the Gwinnett County Jail without bond since.

Phillips has since retired from police work. Both officers lived near each other, close to the shooting scene.