An ex-convict was determined to avoid arrest when he fatally shot an Oceanside police officer, and he harbored "a special malice" toward law enforcement, a prosecutor said Monday.
During opening statements in the trial of Adrian Camacho, 30 -- accused of gunning down Officer Tony Zeppetella -- prosecutor David Rubin said the defendant faced near-certain arrest when pulled over in the parking lot of the crowded Navy Federal Credit Union at 4180 Avenida de la Plata on June 13, 2003.
Camacho had a gun, drugs and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle when the 27-year-old officer pulled behind his car shortly after 5 p.m., Rubin said.
"At any cost, (the defendant) was not going to be arrested, was not going to be arrested by this officer," Rubin said.
William Stone, one of two public defenders representing Camacho, conceded that his client was the gunman, but said the defendant's mental state and actions show that the attack was not premeditated.
"The evidence that's most repulsive in this case shows that it is not planned -- it's crazy," Stone said.
After Zeppetella collected identification and registration information, the shooting "just happened," Rubin said.
Witnesses will testify there was no arguing or loud voices before they heard three to five pops, he said.
The officer tried to move out of the way, but Camacho "tracked" his movements and fired again, he said.
Zeppetella managed to get off 14 rounds in a "desperate" attempt to defend himself, but stopped shooting when bullets broke his right arm in two places, Rubin said.
Camacho then beat Zeppetella in the back of the head with a gun, fired at him again when he saw the officer's head move, then drove off in the patrol car, the prosecutor said.
The officer was pronounced dead at Palomar Medical Center, leaving behind a wife and infant son.
Camacho was arrested four hours later at his in-law's house.
In August, 2003 jailhouse officials intercepted letters written by the defendant that showed the "special malice" he felt toward law enforcement officers, Rubin said.
The letters contained references to "f----ing cops" and "greenlighting" his jailers, using a gang term for ordering an assassination.
Stone said the language in the letter's just showed "frustration being vented."
Camacho "had a foot in both worlds," Stone said. "He was married and had kids. He also had a (drug) habit."
The defendant had abused heroin and methamphetamine since the age of 15 and had also just started taking a new prescription antidepressant, he said.
None of the defendant's actions during the incident made sense, the lawyer said.
First, when Zeppetella pulled in behind his car, Camacho pulled into a parking lot crowded because it was military payday, Stone said.
"It is the least likely place to pull into for someone about to commit a crime," Stone said. "It's in front of an ATM. There's lines at the ATM. There's people on the sidewalk."
The "flurry" of bullets was "far beyond" what was necessary to escape arrest, the lawyer said.
Camacho then left in the officer's car and left it idling and with the door open a couple blocks from his in-law's house, he said.
As SWAT officers surrounded the house on Via Isidro, the defendant slit his wrists in "a sincere attempt at suicide" and wrote "I'm sorry" in blood on a bathroom wall, Stone said.
Other messages on the wall expressed love for his wife and children and a plea for help from a mental health professional.
"This was not about trying to get away from a police officer, or being angry at some unknown officer," Stone said. "It was just crazy."
According to court records, Camacho is a documented gang member and illegal immigrant who served four 16-month prison terms for drug possession, weapons possession, possession of stolen property and evading officers.
If the jury finds the killing was premeditated murder, a second trial will be held on whether to give Camacho the death penalty.
The proceedings are scheduled to last to mid-December.
Camacho faces a possible death penalty if convicted.
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