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Witness describes road-rage battle, shooting

Trials and ArbitrationJustice SystemRacismUniversity of Maryland Medical Center

As his friend lay dying on the side of the highway, Adam Pidel made a frantic call to 911.

In a jumble of words, he repeated the license plate number of the driver who shot his friend after road-rage battle on Route 3 in Millersville. He struggled to give the location to the dispatcher as he pleaded with buddy Joseph Dale Harvey Jr. to keep breathing.

"Joe, concentrate on your breath. Concentrate on your breath," Pidel said during the 911 call played for an Anne Arundel County jury. "Baby, come on, look at me. Look at me. Look at me. Concentrate on your breath."

Later, he said: "This all started because they cut us off. And they were yelling at each other and they were going to fight on the side of the road. But a gun? Like that's, you know, that's a bit much."

A prosecutor played the call twice in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Tuesday during the murder trial of Joseph Lamont Walker. Walker, a 41-year-old New Jersey police officer, is accused of gunning down Harvey on the side of the road last June.

Harvey, a 36-year-old truck driver who had just bought his first home in Lansdowne, was pronounced dead at Baltimore Washington Medical Center.

The first time the recording was played, so Judge Michael Wachs could determine whether the jury should hear all of it, Harvey's family and friends struggled to stay composed.

Pidel, a key witness, spent all of Tuesday morning and part of the afternoon on the witness stand.

Questioned by Assistant State's Attorney Michael Dunty, Pidel described a day that began normally for the two old friends, who had bonded years earlier over paintball, video games and a shared sense of humor. They had gone to a bar the night before. They went out for breakfast and met another friend for steamed crabs and drinks in the afternoon.

Harvey was drinking Blue Moon beer with his crabs, but Pidel didn't think his friend was drunk.

"He wasn't, like, pounding them," Pidel testified.

After the crabs, Pidel and Harvey went to a convenience store for caffeinated drinks before heading to a bar to meet up with friends.

As Harvey turned onto Route 3, Walker's minivan drifted into his lane, Pidel testified. The two drivers swerved and shouted at each other, he said.

Pidel said Harvey, who was white, directed a racial slur at Walker, who is black, at least once.

At one point, Pidel said, he saw Walker point a gun at them. When he was shown what the prosecutor said was the weapon in court, Pidel choked up and took a moment to gather himself before continuing with his testimony.

Once both cars were on the side of the road, Pidel said Harvey strutted toward Walker with his arms up, a gesture Pidel described as "peacocking." Walker, standing by his van, also made a "peacocking" motion, Pidel said.

Pidel said Harvey stopped when Walker pulled out the gun. Pidel said he started to move toward nearby trees. Pidel said Walker then shot Harvey, and a few seconds later, shot again.

Defense attorney Michael T. Cornacchia pointed out to Pidel that he never warned his friend that the other man had a gun. Pidel later said he didn't know what to do as the situation unfolded quickly.

"The whole situation was intimidating and scary. I've never had a gun pointed at me before," he said.

Pidel said he never saw Walker flash a badge and learned only after the shooting that Walker was a police officer. Walker is a detective with the Hudson County prosecutor's office in New Jersey.

Walker's attorneys say Walker was heading home to New Jersey after celebrating the birthday of a 2-year-old nephew at a relative's house in Odenton. They say he shot Harvey to protect himself and his wife and children, who were in the van.

The trial, which began Monday, is expected to last into next week. Jurors have also heard from the friend who joined Harvey and Pidel for crabs, passing motorists who saw some of the events on the side of the road and the emergency room doctor who pronounced Harvey dead.

pwood@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Trials and ArbitrationJustice SystemRacismUniversity of Maryland Medical Center
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