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Ex-cop on trial for apparent love-triangle shooting
Update: The jury has found John Elliot Torres guilty of aggravated assault but not guilty of attempted first-degree murder.
Reported earlier: A former Baltimore City Police officer is on trial this week in York County Court for shooting David Hohman Sr., who on Tuesday testified that he planned to tell the cop's wife that her husband was cheating on her.
Defendant John Elliot Torres, who now lives in Wrightsville, maintains he shot at Hohman 14 times in self-defense. Hohman was shot multiple times while sitting in his car and suffered life-threatening injuries.
The woman in the middle of the triangle — Hohman's wife, Ashley Powell — testified at length Tuesday. But she never used the word "affair" or acknowledged having sex with Torres.
Powell told jurors she and Hohman were having marital difficulties, that Torres and his wife were also having problems, and that she and Torres talked about their problems together. She later admitted she and Torres went to Washington, D.C., together and stayed at a hotel there.
She said there was "nothing sexual at all" about the hotel stay, but did acknowledge they kissed several times and that she hid the trip from her husband, who later learned of it.
Still, Powell did not testify to what Hohman had suspected for months before he was shot by Torres in April 2014 — that she and Torres had biblical knowledge of each other.
Question not asked: In fairness, neither senior deputy prosecutor R.J. Fisher nor defense attorney Clasina Houtman pressed Powell on that detail. Fisher previously told jurors that it doesn't matter what the truth was, just what Hohman believed. And Houtman's defense likely wouldn't be helped by trying to determine whether her client was, in fact, cheating on his wife.
Hohman and Powell worked, and still work, at a grocery store in the Baltimore area where Torres and other off-duty Baltimore City cops had side jobs as security officers. The couple knew Torres for about 10 years, they have said.
Hohman became increasingly frustrated with his marriage falling apart, believed it was because Torres was sleeping with his wife, and on April 29, 2014, decided to do something about it, according to testimony:
He told Powell he was driving to Torres' then-home, an apartment on Brentwood Drive in York Township, to tell Torres' wife what was going on.
Testimony revealed that Powell had her close friend — who had previously helped Powell and Torres communicate behind Hohman's back — warn Torres by phone. And as Hohman drove north, he and his wife texted back and forth.
Later, after he arrived at Brentwood Drive, he and Torres had a text exchange as well. Fisher showed jurors both of those text exchanges Tuesday.
'Crazy': Powell texted her husband, "I already told you I'm done with him, what don't you understand?" She kept insisting her husband was "crazy" for wanting to tell Torres' wife about his suspicions.
Hohman texted Powell: "All I wanted was to be happy in love and raise our family together, Ashley. I'm not crazy for wanting that."
Hohman texted his wife that Torres wouldn't answer his phone and wouldn't answer his apartment door. That led Hohman to text: "If a man won't fight for his wife, then that man should (have) never been married" and "As you see he is fighting to keep his marriage ... afraid to face the truth all because he doesn't want to lose his wife and the life he has."
Powell warned her husband that Torres might shoot him, and she told jurors Tuesday that Torres had previously stated he'd shoot Hohman if Hohman stepped foot on his property.
Hohman told jurors he was eventually able to reach Torres and the two shared back-and-forth text messages just before the shooting. He said he made it clear to Torres he intended to tell the then-officer's wife that Torres was cheating on her, but that Torres wouldn't open his door.
'Game is over': Hohman texted. "Let's see how Charlene feels about this ... time to end this. ... The game is over, you might as well answer the door. I have all day."
Torres texted in reply,"I don't take kindly to any threats. That being said, stay in your lane and leave me alone."
Torres also texted, "It's in your best interest not to contact me anymore."
But Hohman persisted: "There's consequences to f—ing up someone's marriage and life and man up to them."
Hohman told jurors that he left Torres' apartment complex and grabbed lunch at a fast-food place after deciding he'd try to contact Torres' wife after Torres left for work. He wrote a letter to the woman while eating lunch, which read in part, "He has been cheating on you with my wife and has cheated on you with other (grocery store employees)."
Opened fire: Hohman testified he returned to Torres' apartment complex and, as he was parking, saw Torres walk out of the building. The two men locked eyes, he said. The victim said he had his left hand on the steering wheel and gave Torres a half-wave with his right hand.
"That's when he drew his weapon and started firing," Hohman said.
Torres fired into the car 14 times, police have said, and witnesses testified he was just a few feet from Hohman's car at the time.
Hohman said he realized, "He's going to kill me" and leaned away from the direction of the bullets. He said he held one hand over his face and the other over his heart, trying to protect his vital organs.
A prosecution witness corroborated that account by testifying that Torres was 2 to 3 feet from the victim's car, and that the victim was flinching and ducking, his hands up over his face in a defensive position, as if to protect his head.
Multiple wounds: Hohman told jurors he was shot multiple times in the left arm, a "couple times" in the ribs, and also shot in the stomach, chest and both legs.
He said after the gunfire stopped, he lay on the front seat with his eyes closed, playing dead, and heard Torres call someone to say he'd "just shot this motherf—er" who tried to get between Torres and his wife. After that phone call, the victim said, Torres called 911.
Hohman was unarmed, police have said, and he confirmed that today on the witness stand.
Torres was suspended without pay after charges were filed and subsequently resigned, Baltimore City Police have said.
He is charged with attempted first-degree murder and aggravated assault. The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning.
Previous shooting: Torres shot and killed off-duty Baltimore City Police Officer Norman Stamp, 65, while responding to an incident at a strip club in Baltimore eight years ago, according to The Baltimore Sun.
As police officers arrived at the club in April 2008, Stamp, who was hanging out with members of his motorcycle club, rushed out with brass knuckles. Torres struck him with a Taser and, after Stamp reached for his service weapon, fired two shots, the report says.
A civil jury in 2010 dismissed a lawsuit filed by Stamp's widow, saying Torres acted appropriately.
He was hired as a Baltimore City officer in 2002, a department spokesman has said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.