Archive for Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Preliminary hearing reveals Oct. 14 details

December 19, 2001

The Oct. 14 shooting in West Baldwin, which left one man wounded, evolved from a dispute between children, court testimony revealed Friday.

Witnesses testified during a preliminary hearing in Douglas County District Court that Baldwin resident Stephen Meeker, 34, went naked to the front door of his house in the 1200 block of Bison Court and shot Steven Swafford, 31, Lawrence.

Both Assistant Douglas County Dist. Atty. Dan Dunbar and Meeker's attorney, Jim Rumsey, questioned witnesses Friday to prove to District Judge Jack Murphy whether there was enough evidence to try Meeker on one count each of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated battery.

The hearing, which lasted all day, was delayed until 2 p.m. Tuesday because Rumsey still had more defense witnesses to call. Meeker was bound over for trial after Tuesday's hearing was completed.

On the stand, Kerry Chalmers testified the events on Oct. 14 began when her two children and one of Swafford's children came into her house crying after a dispute with the Meekers' child.

Chalmers also said Meeker's wife, Erin, called her 14-year-old daughter derogatory names and threatened to call the police on her 5-year-old son.

She said there had been previous problems between the two neighbors.

During her hour and a half testimony, Chalmers said she went to the Meeker's house to confront Erin Meeker.

"I was upset," she said. "I was angry as any parent would be."

The confrontation between the two took place at the Meekers' front door, Chalmers said, where she told Erin Meeker she would beat her up if she approached Chalmers' daughter again.

Chalmers said she was starting to leave, when Stephen Meeker came to the doorway naked and pointed a pistol at her head.

"He just had the gun pointed at my head," she said. "I thought I was dead. I thought he was going to kill me."

Chalmers' boyfriend, Swafford, testified he had been visiting his girlfriend at the time and had been following her to the Meekers' house.

He said he was at the end of Chalmers' driveway when he saw Stephen Meeker point the gun at her head.

"I yelled at him, 'Oh, my God. What are you doing?'" Swafford said. "I started to run. He turned and looked at me. He pulled his gun off of her. She hit the ground and he started pulling the trigger."

Swafford was hit by three bullets, one in his right hand, one in his left elbow and one in his left hip. He was taken later that evening by helicopter to Kansas University Medical Center. He said the bullets are still in his elbow and his hip, which were mostly recovered, and he said his hand, which he has little use of, still has fragments in it.

Christopher O'Neil, a friend of Chalmers' and Swafford's, testified he started running with Swafford when the confrontation broke out and Meeker fired at least four, possibly five, times in their direction.

"The gun went off one time and then he moved the gun to his right and proceeded to fire," O'Neil said.

After firing the shots, Chalmers said Stephen Meeker pointed the gun back in her direction as he backed into his house.

Baldwin City Police officers arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting and arrested Stephen Meeker.

During questioning of witnesses, Rumsey eluded several times that the shooting may have been in self defense.

One of the defense's witnesses, Baldwin resident Rob Beilfuss, testified he told a Douglas County Sheriff's officer that he looked out the front door of his house after he heard the shots and saw Swafford stumble around and fall to the ground.

"When he wobbled, something fell to the side that looked like a gun," Beilfuss said. "I saw a gun at one point."

Another resident of the neighborhood also testified he saw a man, not Stephen Meeker, with a gun.

No gun was found with Swafford when police arrived.

Stephen Meeker is currently free from jail on $15,000 bond.

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