Crawford trial expected to start today

Nov. 29, 2012 @ 12:49 AM

The trial of a man accused of shooting two deputies executing a search of his home more than four years ago begins today in Caldwell County Superior Court.

Jury selection for the trial of James Vance Crawford, of N.C. 268 in Lenoir, is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. Crawford, 32, was indicted on three counts of felony assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury and one count of assault with a deadly weapon with a firearm on a law enforcement officer. Crawford also was indicted on several drug charges, including two felony counts of possession with intent to sell or distribute cocaine, possession with intent to sell or distribute marijuana, manufacture of cocaine, manufacture of marijuana, maintaining a dwelling for the purpose of selling or manufacture of drugs, and possession of drug  paraphernalia.

On Monday, attorneys met in court in front of Superior Court Judge R. Allen Baddour Jr. to discuss pre-trial motions. Crawford’s attorney, Herb Pearce, told Judge Baddour the state has a duty to reveal personnel files of a key prosecution witness, Michael Longo, then a Sheriff’s Office SWAT team member, who recently left the department. Longo was also one of the officers shot during the exchange of gunfire. Pearce asked the judge to examine the personnel files to determine if there are any impeachment issues. Judge Baddour urged County Attorney David Lackey to have the files available under seal for disclosure to attorneys as soon as possible.

The incident occurred at Crawford’s home at 1510 N.C. 268 about 5 p.m. on Sept. 10, 2008. According to a probable cause affadivit filed with the Clerk of Court’s office, Sgt. J.D. Barbour, with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, obtained a search warrant for alleged controlled substance violations at the residence. At 8 p.m. that evening, the warrant was executed.

During the search, Crawford allegedly shot Longo and fellow SWAT Team member Erle Davis with a Taurus .45-caliber handgun. During the exchange of gunfire, Davis returned fire and shot Crawford multiple times while inside the residence. Neither Longo nor Davis suffered life-threatening injuries. Detectives later recovered spent shell casings, fired bullets, swabs of red stains and a Taurus gun box and ammunition.

On May 13, 2009, Crawford was jailed in the Caldwell County Detention Center under a $150,000 secured bond, which later was reduced to $125,000.

“This case is about self-defense of his wife and his home,” Pearce said after Monday’s hearing. “There’s no question he (Crawford) had a .45 pistol and the officer had a machine gun. He was shot numerous times. The real question is, did they use excessive force?”

The trial is expected to last through the week.