The subject of an exclusive NY1 jailhouse interview went on trial Monday, charged with stealing a police officer's gun from inside his precinct house. The suspect's own videotaped attempt to turn the weapon in is a key part of the case against him. NY1's Criminal Justice reporter Dean Meminger filed the following report.
Two officers who had their guns stolen from the 103rd precinct in Queens last year took the stand in State Supreme Court on Monday to tell the court what happened, but could not say how.
Ronald De Shields is charged with stealing both guns, although police only recovered one. His lawyer, Jeff Chabrowe, says Shields did not do it.
"It is impossible for my client to have actually accessed that office and taken the gun out. And it defines comprehension as to why he would commit such a master crime and turn it into a precinct the very next day," Chabrowe said.
De Shields took cellphone video obtained exclusively by NY1 as he turned the gun in at the 90th precinct in Brooklyn.
He says he wanted the gun off the street, but in a jailhouse interview this summer, he would not say how he got it.
"I turned it in. I did what I thought was best," De Shields told NY1. "I just wanted to pretty much make sure no one was hurt with this weapon."
Captain Charles Minch was a lieutenant when his gun was stolen. In court, he said he left his second-floor office for about 40 minutes and when he returned his and his assistant's weapons were gone.
Minch said someone had opened the locks and lockers, saying, "We did not know if it was a civilian off the street, a civilian of the police department or if possibly it was a police officer."
Chabrowe said he will try to convince the jury other officers were involved, not De Shields.
"He came in contact with the gun and did the right thing. He turned it in. In doing so, he put himself at risk," Chabrowe said.
Police say De Shields was not arrested because he turned in the weapon to a gun buyback program. They say that program is anonymous and they do not keep a track of who turns in weapons.
They say they arrested De Shields because they had evidence he stole the guns, including his finger print on one of the lockers.
The Queens district attorney also argues De Shields has a history of impersonating various law enforcement officers.
The defense says De Shields at one time was an auxiliary officer and a volunteer fire fighter.