Original article no longer available
February 2, 2010
HUNTSVILLE (HuntsvilleNewswire – William T. Martin) – One after another, on Monday, Feb. 1, witnesses in the first day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Kenneth Clarence Shipp painted a picture of a routine evening that turned into a nightmare as a Huntsville police officer was gunned down while investigating a minor traffic collision.
Shipp, 55, is facing the death penalty for the killing of officer William Eric Freeman on Dec. 14, 2007.
After opening arguments, the state began making its case as retired Huntsville investigator Billy Hancock took the stand.
Hancock testified he and his wife Connie had just finished shopping at Southern Family Market on Bailey Cove Road when their SUV was rear-ended by Shipp’s Dodge pickup at the Weatherly Road intersection.
Hancock said Shipp asked him not to call police, as his own vehicle did not appear damaged. Hancock said he told Shipp his vehicle was damaged and that police would need to make a report.
Hancock later testified Shipp told him his license was suspended and that he did not want to be put in jail.
Hancock said Freeman arrived shortly after 9 p.m. to investigate the crash, and he later heard Freeman say, “Let me help you up, buddy,” to Shipp, who was sitting along the curb.
Shipp appeared intoxicated and had already fallen down prior to the arrival of police, Hancock said.
Hancock said he was a short distance away when he heard a shot. Hancock’s wife then yelled, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”
Hancock said he turned and saw Shipp and another officer, Kevin Lambert, fighting over a gun. Hancock ran to them and all three fell to the ground.
Hancock grabbed the cylinder of the revolver in Shipp’s hand, keeping it from advancing to the next round. He said other officers soon arrived, wrestled the gun away from Shipp and subdued him.
He ran to where Freeman lay motionless in the road.
Hancock paused, visibly upset, as he recalled trying to communicate with Freeman.
“Come on, Eric. Come on, stay with me,” he recalled saying. “We got an ambulance coming.”
He said Freeman did not respond.
Lambert, who responded to the crash with Freeman, testified both officers were trying to help Shipp off the road and into a patrol car when the shooting happened.
Lambert said he originally took Shipp by the right arm, which Shipp had in a sling.
Then Freeman asked him to switch sides, with Lambert moving to Shipp’s left arm and Freeman being on the right.
It was a decision that would save Lambert’s life and cost Freeman his.
As the two officers were starting toward the car, Lambert testified, he paused to set his clipboard on the hood of Shipp’s pickup.
At that moment, Lambert said he felt Shipp pull from his grasp, and then he heard “a bang.”
He said he saw Freeman fall to the ground, and then Shipp spun around toward him with a gun in his left hand.
Lambert grabbed Shipp’s arm and tried to reach the pistol when Hancock arrived and pushed them all to the ground.
Lambert testified Shipp was screaming ‘You sons of b–s better kill me. I got a bomb!’
As Hancock held the gun, Lambert was able to call in to dispatch.
A recording of the calls to dispatch that night was played for the jury.
“(This is) Baker 312 (Lambert), shots fired, officer down! Officer Freeman is down, 10-31 (officer in immediate danger), you hear me?, (respond) Code 3 (lights and siren).”
Lambert said another officer, Dana Springfield, finally was able to wrestle the gun from Shipp’s grasp.
He said Shipp continued to struggle and was pepper sprayed before he was handcuffed, dragged away and placed into the back of a patrol car.
Lambert said he went to Freeman and saw a “small-sized hole” in Freeman’s forehead.
After a break for lunch during the trial, Huntsville Police Crime Scene Investigator (CSI) Lisa Hamilton took the stand.
She said she went to the scene in response to Lambert’s call for help and saw four or five officers wrestling with a man on the ground.
She said she later collected evidence from the scene, including photos of blood, medical debris, a can of pepper spray and various items of Officer Freeman’s.
She was also given a North American Arms .22-caliber revolver.
Upon examination, Hamilton said the 5-shot pistol had contained four rounds, one of which had been fired.
She said she also received a .25-caliber Titan semi-automatic pistol from another officer, Herbet Dean Paulin. Paulin testified he found that gun in Shipp’s pants, which he said had come off during the time that Shipp had struggled with police and been dragged to Paulin’s patrol car.
Hamilton said she searched Shipp’s pickup and found several receipts for guns Shipp had pawned, bottles for prescription drugs, several unfilled prescriptions and unfired ammunition.
During his time on the stand, Officer Paulin testified he took Shipp from the scene of the shooting to the South Precinct and placed him in an interrogation room.
Paulin said he was ordered not to make conversation with Shipp, but Shipp made several spontaneous statements anyway.
“I’m so sorry,” Paulin said Shipp told him, “I guess I f-d up.”
Paulin then took Shipp to the emergency room for treatment of some injuries he had sustained during the incident.
At the hospital, Paulin said, Shipp told him he had a $25,000 buyout in his pocket and that he wanted “the person I hurt to have it.”
Paulin was asked about tests performed on Shipp.
He said Shipp’s blood alcohol level was 0.161, or twice the Alabama limit for legal intoxication. That limit is 0.08.
Paulin also said tests revealed the presence of the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam, also known as Xanax; the painkiller hydrocodone; and the anti-depressant drug fluoxetine, also called Prozac.
The last witness of the day was Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences Medical Examiner Dr. Emily Ward.
She testified she examined Freeman and determined he had suffered from a single gunshot wound to the forehead between the eyebrows.
Dr. Ward said she saw dense stippling abrasions around
The stippling, according to Dr. Ward, is made when hot gunpowder residue from a firearm burns into the skin at or around the point of bullet impact.
She said the gun that fired the fatal shot was “just a few inches” from Freeman’s head when it was discharged.
Defense attorneys Robert Tuten and Jake Watson said in their opening argument they are not contesting that Shipp had the gun or that he fired the shot that killed Freeman.
They assert that Shipp was intoxicated on alcohol and prescription drugs and thus could not form the intent to kill Freeman.
Intent is an element of first-degree murder.
Testimony is set to continue at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning in Judge Bruce Williams’ courtroom.
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Huntsville cop-killer Kenneth Shipp rejected in bid for new trial
By Brian Lawson
on March 06, 2015 at 4:21 PM
The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today again rejected Huntsville cop-killer Kenneth Shipp’s bid for a new trial, denying his motion for a rehearing.
The court on Jan. 30 rejected Shipp’s bid for a new trial. He was convicted of capital murder in 2010 for the Dec. 14, 2007 shooting death of Huntsville Police Department officer Eric Freeman. Shipp, 60, fatally shot Eric Freeman, while Freeman and another officer were escorting Shipp to a police car after a traffic accident. He pulled a small pistol from an arm sling and shot the officer at point-blank range.
The shooting occurred on Dec. 14, 2007, at the intersection of Bailey Cove Road and Weatherly Road. Freeman had five children.
The defense argued the former Redstone Arsenal engineer was so impaired by drugs and alcohol at the time of the shooting that he wasn’t capable of making the decision to kill Freeman.
The jury recommended – by a 9-3 margin – that Shipp should be sentenced to life in prison, rather than receive the death penalty.
Shipp’s direct appeals have previously been rejected by the courts.
Shipp’s appeal filing under Alabama’s Rule 32 argued he did not receive a fair trial due to an inadequate performance by his attorneys and incorrect rulings by the trial judge.
Madison County Circuit Judge Bruce Williams agreed with the jury’s decision on Shipp’s sentence and ordered him to serve life in prison without parole. Williams had the option under Alabama law to reject the jury’s sentencing recommendation and sentence Shipp to die. Then-Alabama Attorney General Troy King publicly argued for a death sentence for Shipp before Williams’ ruling.
Shipp can now appeal his Rule 32 petition to the Alabama Supreme Court.