Archive for Wednesday, April 3, 2002

No verdict in Meeker shooting trial

April 3, 2002

It has lasted a week and testimony has still not concluded in the trial for a man charged in the October shooting in Baldwin.

Testimony will continue today in the trial for Stephen Meeker, 35, a former Baldwin resident, who is accused of shooting and wounding Steven Swafford, 31, Lawrence. Continue to check the Signal's Web site for the verdict.

Meeker is being tried on charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and attempted aggravated battery stemming from a shooting that took place the night of Oct. 14 in the 1200 block of Bison Court in west Baldwin.

The trial began last Wednesday afternoon before District Court Judge Jack Murphy and a four-woman, eight-man jury with the testimony of several Baldwin and Douglas County law enforcement officers.

The trial continued the next day when Swafford's girlfriend, Kerry Chalmers, took the stand.

Chalmers testified the events on the night of Oct. 14 began when she became upset after her two children told her their neighbor had made derogatory comments to them.

Chalmers said she confronted next-door neighbor Erin Meeker Stephen Meeker's wife about the comments she made to her children. The confrontation took place at the Meekers' front door.

"I was angry," Chalmers said. "I was very angry."

She said she never entered the Meekers' house, but instead yelled from just in front of the doorway, telling Erin Meeker that if she wouldn't leave her children alone, Chalmers would "kick her ass."

"I was yelling. I was angry," Chalmers said. "I just wanted her to stop, to leave my children alone."

After yelling at Erin Meeker, Chalmers said she turned to walk away but did not get very far because Stephen Meeker came out of the front door, naked, with a gun pointed at her.

"I thought I was dead," she said. "I thought for sure he was going to blow my head off."

Swafford, who had come outside from Chalmers' house, testified he saw Meeker pointing the gun at Chalmers' head and started running toward them.

"I yelled, 'Oh, my God. What are you doing?'" Swafford said. "I just kept thinking, 'Man, he was going to shoot her.'"

Swafford said he ran toward Meeker hoping to distract him. When he started running, he said Meeker, without saying anything, turned toward him and fired.

Swafford was hit in his right hand, left arm and left thigh. He was later taken by helicopter to Kansas University Medical Center.

Christopher O'Neill, a friend of Chalmers and Swafford, said he also started running along with Swafford toward the Meeker residence when he saw the gun.

O'Neill said Meeker also fired in his direction but did not hit him.

After the shots were fired, O'Neill said he ran to Baldwin police officer Chuck Woolsoncroft's house nearby to get help.

Erin Meeker testified she did confront Chalmers' children that afternoon about playing in her yard.

She said she went in her house to tell Stephen Meeker about the incident. She said her husband, who had just gotten out of the shower, told her to call the police.

Before she could contact the police, Erin Meeker said she heard a banging at her front door. When she went to open it, she said Chalmers swung the screen door open and stepped inside the house where she began yelling.

"She was screaming at me," Erin Meeker said. "Her face was so red and her body was shaking so badly. She was so out of control."

She said Chalmers threatened to kill her.

Stephen Meeker testified he was in the bedroom getting dressed to go to work when he heard Chalmers threaten to kill his wife.

He said he didn't take the time to dress, but grabbed a 9 mm pistol from the night stand and walked to the living room where the two women were standing.

"I screamed she was not going to hurt my family, not threaten my family," he said. "I had hoped by having the gun, she would leave, leave my home."

Stephen Meeker said he didn't point the gun at Chalmers, but did back her out of the house onto the porch.

When he got to the doorway, he said that's when he noticed a man charging at him saying he was going to kill him.

He said he pointed the gun at the charging man, who he later identified as Swafford, and told him to stop.

"If he had stopped and got down, I never would have shot him," Stephen Meeker said.

He said he noticed another man charging at him, which he later identified as O'Neill. He said both men were only a few feet away from him when he fired.

He said he never intended to hit anybody, but just wanted them to stop running toward him.

He said he never saw Chalmers, Swafford or O'Neill with any weapons on them.

After shooting at the men, Stephen Meeker said he backed into the house, shut the door and called the police.

Stephen Meeker did surrender peacefully when the police arrived.

He said later when he was sitting in handcuffs in his front yard near a police officer, O'Neill approached and threatened him.

"He said, 'You had better carry a gun the rest of your life because I'm going to get you,'" Stephen Meeker said O'Neill told him.

O'Neill agreed he said something like that to him.

"I was upset," he said.

Erin Meeker testified she is afraid O'Neill will carry through on his threat because of a recent incident.

About two months after the shooting, the Meekers moved to Gardner. After returning to Bison Court in February to pick up her dogs she left with friends, Erin Meeker said O'Neill followed her back to Gardner.

She said she pulled into a Gardner auto parts store and called her husband, who then called Gardner police.

O'Neill said he had been in Gardner to visit friends and had stopped at the auto parts store to purchase windshield wash.

Testimony in the trial is expected to conclude today.

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