MAYS LANDING — Atlantic City police Detective Thomas McCabe’s attention turned quickly from an alleged armed robbery to his bleeding partner as soon as he heard a “pop.”
“I heard my partner make a groan sound … like a last breath of air type sound,” said McCabe, who was Josh Vadell’s partner Sept. 3, 2016, the night Vadell was shot in the head. “My first priority was Josh.”
McCabe, wearing a black suit and tie, testified for more than an hour Monday as the trial continued for the two Cumberland County men allegedly involved in the armed robbery that led to the shooting.
In front of him in court were Martel D. Chisolm, 31, of Millville, and Demetris Cross, 30, of Bridgeton, charged with attempted murder, robbery, conspiracy to commit robbery and weapons possession.
Vadell was shot in the head during an investigation into an alleged armed robbery near the Caesars Atlantic City parking garage on Arkansas Avenue. The shooter, Jerome Damon, 25, of Camden, fled after McCabe returned fire and was found dead about a block and a half away.
A grand jury cleared McCabe in Damon’s killing in January 2017.
McCabe told Chief Assistant Prosecutor Seth Levy Monday that when Vadell told him to drive toward a group of people with his emergency lights on, he saw several men and teens, including one teen with his hands on his head and his pants around his ankles.
He said he heard him say, “Yo, they’re robbing us,” when McCabe pulled his car up, and said he made eye contact with another man standing near in a bright green T-shirt.
“I said, ‘Yo!’ and that’s when he started to run,” McCabe said, adding his intention was to chase him and take him into custody.
But then, the “pop” sound. He said he heard his partner groan, and saw him on the ground with blood coming from his head. He said he saw another man “running and pointing” toward him with a gun.
McCabe said he began making radio transmissions, saying “officer down” and “shots fired,” while trying to apply pressure to Vadell’s head wound and waiting for additional help. Vadell was talking but not moving, he said.
Levy asked him whether any radio transmissions were made to chase down the suspects, and McCabe said that wasn’t done until they arrived at the hospital in a patrol car because his priority was his partner.
Robin Lord, Chisolm’s attorney, asked McCabe what happened in the hours of their shift before the incident, and whether McCabe saw the described suspects earlier in the night.
Lord also asked him about his official statement to the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office on Sept. 16, 2016.
“After this incident was over and you were in the hospital, you didn’t give a statement that day, right?” Lord asked. “There came a point in time, however, when you were asked to give a statement about what you saw. … That wasn’t until sometime after, correct?”
Levy later played audio from McCabe’s body camera footage that was rolling as they got to the hospital, where he is heard describing the shooting suspect as a black male with a black shirt that had multiple colors on the front, and that he ran west on Atlantic Avenue.
Lord later pointed to a map in front of McCabe and said west on Atlantic Avenue is not actually where Damon ran. His body was found about 1½ blocks from the scene in bushes near the entrance to Caesars at Missouri and Pacific avenues, according to police.
Attorney Brad Wertheimer, representing Cross, asked McCabe whether he wrote any notes for himself about the incident before making the taped statement that day. McCabe said no.
A 17-year-old from Mays Landing also testified Monday as a victim in the alleged robbery. He said he was with friends in Atlantic City when three people approached them.
He said he was “cautious for (his) life” once a gun was pulled, but after a court recess, said he did not want to answer any more questions.
FBI Special Agent John Hauger, who analyzed cellphone records for the case, and Prosecutor’s Lt. Thomas Finan also testified Monday.
The trial is set to resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.