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Last updated: Wed. Jun. 04, 2014 - 02:14 pm EDT

Trial opens in attempted murder case

Sides debate man’s actions after scuffle with officer, gunfire

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FORT WAYNE — When the gun first discharged, the muzzle was within a foot of officer Treven Brown’s head.

The bullet didn’t strike him, but as he struggled with the man wielding the silver handgun that night over a year ago, nine more shots would ring out.

A few of those hit a car with a family inside. Others hit a house in the neighborhood.

None of the shots left anyone dead.

But they did lead to the jailing of a Fort Wayne man whose trial on an attempted murder charge began Tuesday in Allen Superior Court.

Daniel Spells Jr., 34, made his first appearance in front of a jury where Allen County prosecutors laid out what they planned to show as evidence against him.

Brown, a Fort Wayne police officer, was responding to a domestic disturbance on May 17, 2013, when he spotted Spells in the 2800 block of South Harrison Street. Spells matched the description of a person involved in the domestic battery, according to prosecutors.

Police would later learn that Spells was not the man they were seeking.

However, Brown parked, approached Spells on foot and asked his name. Giving his name as “Dan,” Spells took a combative stance with his left shoulder angled toward the officer. The officer asked for identification, and Spells provided some, but the officer, concerned about Spells’ body language, did not look at it right away, court records said.

He watched Spells, instead. Spells, with his body still angled, quickly put his right hand on his right side. The officer responded by grabbing Spells’ left arm, the one closest to the officer, according to court records.

That’s when the struggle ensued, the gun – a .45-caliber semiautomatic – was pulled and, prosecutors claim, Spells began firing shots.

Spells’ defense attorney argued his client had the gun but that he was trying to throw it away because he did not legally have it.

The attorney, Quinton Ellis, argued the shots were fired unintentionally and that his client’s willingness to give his name and ID pointed to that.

“That should go a long way toward the fact it was not his intent to kill officer Brown,” Ellis told a jury during his opening arguments.

Brown was able to disarm Spells without using his own weapon. But the struggle left him injured as he put his hand in Spells’ gun’s top sliding mechanism to try to stop the firing.

While the struggle occurred, a car pulled down the street toward Brown and Spells. At the sound of gunfire, the car began backing up, but not before two bullets hit a mirror and the hood.

“Not only was officer Brown fighting for his life, but Spells put the people in homes and that car in danger,” Deputy Prosecutor Christine Nielson said.

Along with attempted murder, Spells is charged with carrying a handgun without a license, criminal recklessness, resisting law enforcement and being a habitual offender.

His trial is expected to end today.

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