Carmen "Skip" Damiani said he didn't have nearly enough time to react - perhaps a second or two - when 21-year-old Tamarr Minor reached in between the cushions of his couch and pulled out a loaded handgun.
Damiani, 64, a state constable who was trying to evict Minor from his Yeadon apartment, was holding a metal baton. He knew he didn't stand a chance.
"At that point," Damiani said, "I'm dead." Or so he thought.
Damiani returned to work within three weeks of the April 23 shooting and walked into Aston District Court yesterday - with a .25-caliber bullet still lodged in his head - to testify against Minor. Police say Minor fired at Damiani and Ted Hicks, the manager of Parkview Court Apartments, when they attempted to evict him for failing to pay $2,000 in back rent.
District Judge David Murphy held Minor for trial yesterday on three counts of attempted murder and related charges and sent him back to the Delaware County prison on $1 million cash bail. The case was shifted to Aston from Yeadon due to procedural matters.
Minor is charged with shooting Damiani in the left side of the head and Hicks in the abdomen with a cheap Bryco Arms semiautomatic. A part-time customer service worker, Minor then tried to shoot maintenance worker Clint Grove, who was changing the locks on the door, but the gun jammed, said Deputy District Attorney Daniel McDevitt.
Yeadon Detective Sgt. David Splain said doctors at Christiana Hospital removed the bullet from Hicks' abdomen last weekend when he underwent emergency surgery for a gall-bladder attack.
About 15 state constables came to court yesterday to support Damiani, of Upper Darby. Minor, who declined to comment as he was led from the building in cuffs and shackles, was backed by an equally large contingent of relatives and friends.
Under cross-examination from defense attorney Lonny Fish, Damiani said he was holding the baton over his head in a striking position when Minor pulled the gun.
"I saw a flash," Damiani said of the muzzle blast. "I went numb."
Fish argued unsuccessfully to have Minor's bail reduced, saying he has no criminal record. Outside the courtroom, Fish said he is exploring the argument that Minor was acting in self-defense and that Damiani had not followed the proper eviction procedures.
"He wasn't trying to kill anybody," Fish said. "He's a good kid."
McDevitt said Minor is lucky he isn't facing the death penalty for killing a lawman. "Constable Damiani was inches from losing his life. The defendant should be fortunate he's only going to court on attempted-murder charges," McDevitt said. "This was almost a flat-out execution of a constable and a civilian." *