Trial begins for man linked to shooting death of San Diego police Officer Christopher Wilson

Alex Charfauros charged with murder

SAN DIEGO - If a probationer had told the truth about armed people holed up in his southeast San Diego apartment nearly three years ago, a police officer may not have been killed, a prosecutor told a jury Thursday.

Alex Charfauros, 29, is charged with murder, attempted murder and other counts in connection with a probation check that ended in a fatal shootout in which San Diego police Officer Christopher Wilson was killed.

The night of Oct. 27, 2010, county probation officers and U.S. marshals went to Charfauros' apartment on South Meadowbrook Drive, Deputy District Attorney Michael Runyon told jurors.

Probation officers were checking on Charfauros and the marshals were looking for Holim Lee, who had outstanding warrants for assault with a deadly weapon and a probation violation.

A man -- not the defendant -- opened the door and said Charfauros wasn't home, then slammed it shut, Runyon said. Officers forced entry into the apartment and after a while, Charfauros came crawling out of the east bedroom, according to the prosecutor.

Once outside, officers asked Charfauros if there were any guns, drugs or anyone else holed up inside, but the defendant was uncooperative, saying he was at work, then sleeping, and providing no definitive information, Runyon said.

A number of San Diego police officers were called to assist, including Wilson, who also questioned Charfauros about who and what was still in the apartment, but the defendant said he didn't know, according to Runyon.

Once inside, a police officer kicked in the door of the west bedroom and "all hell broke loose at that point," Runyon told the jury in his opening statement.

Wilson, a 17-year veteran and training officer, was shot in the head and died a short time later. He was 50.

A police dog was shot in the snout but survived.

As the prosecution delivered opening statements, Wilson's daughter held back tears while Charfauros also appeared to get emotional.

"Let's hold him accountable for the choices he made that day," said Runyon.

Among the things Charfauros failed to tell law enforcement was that Lee and his girlfriend, Lucky Xayasene, were living in the apartment and that three guns and a shotgun were "waiting on those officers," the prosecutor said.

The defendant also failed to inform law enforcement that Patrick Luangrath and Melissa Ortiz -- who are also charged with murder but will be tried separately -- were in the apartment that night, according to Runyon.

After the gunfire broke out, an officer grabbed Charfauros, threw him against a wall and asked, "Why didn't you say something? All you had to do was tell us," Runyon told the jury.

A couple hours later, Ortiz and Luangrath emerged from the east bedroom. The bodies of Lee -- believed to be the shooter -- and Xayasene were found in the west bedroom with self-inflicted gunshot wounds, and guns were nearby, the prosecutor said.

"When they (officers) kicked in that door, they stepped into a small armory that was fired at them," Runyon said as he urged jurors to hold Charfauros liable for Wilson's death.

Prosecutors said Charfauros knew full well what was awaiting the officers, pointing to cellphone video from a meth party with the people in the house with guns in the background from the night before.

Charfauros is charged in a separate case with conspiring to intimidate a witness in the case.

In his opening statement, defense attorney David I. Berman said prosecutors lacked the evidence to find Charfauros guilty of murder, saying Lee was responsible for Wilson's death and that his client was wrongly accused.

Berman reminded jurors that Charfauros, who faces life in prison if convicted, wasn't in the room with Lee when the gunfire broke out.

"Alex Charfauros is not an angel ... He's made a lot of mistakes in his life, but he's not the devil either. He's not a cop killer," said Berman.

Charfauros' trial is expected to last three weeks in the courtroom of Judge Kenneth So.

Some of the officers involved in the gunfight are expected to take the stand Friday.

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