The Baltimore police officer on trial in the shooting of an unarmed man told a jury Thursday he saw a "shiny silver object" he thought could have been a weapon.
"He could've shot me," Officer Wesley Cagle said on the witness stand. "I then discharged my weapon at the threat."
Cagle is facing charges that include attempted murder in the shooting of Michael Johansen, who was the suspect in a corner store burglary on the morning of Dec. 28, 2014.
The 46-year-old officer took the witness stand in his defense and testified for much of the day in Baltimore Circuit Court. He is the first city officer to be criminally charged in an on-duty shooting since 2008.
Prosecutors allege Cagle needlessly shot Johansen, who was lying in the doorway of an East Baltimore corner store after two other officers shot him.
The officer's defense lawyers have tried to convince the jury that Cagle acted reasonably. They also have attempted to cast doubt as to whether the bullet fired by Cagle even hit Johansen.
Cagle painted a chaotic scene in his testimony, saying that when he first heard gunfire, he believed other officers could have been shot.
Johansen told the jury this week that Cagle called him "a piece of [expletive]" before shooting him in the groin.
But Cagle said Thursday he was giving commands to Johansen to show his hands. He told jurors he approached the man to render aid if needed, and that he saw a shiny object and Johansen making a "pulling" motion with his hands.
Cagle also said another officer at the scene, Keven Leary, told him, "Cages, be careful; he's got a gun," referring to him by his nickname.
Leary and another officer, Isiah Smith, already had shot at Johansen several times when Cagle approached. Neither was charged criminally in the shooting because prosecutors determined Johansen refused to comply with commands and moved toward his waistband.
Smith and Leary testified Wednesday that they could hear words exchanged between Cagle and Johansen before they heard gunfire, but could not make out what was said.
Cagle said he didn't know whether he hit Johansen when he shot at him.
Johansen turned out to be unarmed. Cagle said he found a piece of metal like those used to hang bags of chips in a store.
The officers had gone to the store in response to a report of a burglary about 4:30 a.m.
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Leary testified that Cagle told him that he had shot Johansen in the groin — but Cagle denied ever saying that.
In cross-examining Cagle, prosecutor Gerard Volatile repeatedly questioned Cagle about his tactical decisions that morning.
Cagle also told jurors he never had shot his gun on duty before and had never been disciplined. He said he has three children and two stepchildren, and he became a Baltimore police officer in 2001 because he thought it would be a good career to support his family.
The charges against Cagle also include first-degree assault.