Trenton police officers take witness stand in trial of man accused of shooting at them


James-Ellis-Grant.jpgJames-Ellis-GrantMercer County Prosecutor’s Office
Two officers who were in a Trenton police vehicle that was hit several times by gunfire in May 2012 testified today that the bullets came within inches of them.Officers Mike Runyon and Gene Palumbo said they were patrolling Stuyvesant Avenue just before midnight on May 14 when they realized they were being shot at.

“When I reached the 600 block I heard very loud, rapid gunfire,” Runyon said. “I could tell from the sound it was coming from something very high-powered, a rifle.”

Runyon and Palumbo were called to the witness stand today in the trial of James Ellis Grant, 25, who prosecutors said wanted to kill police officers in retaliation for the death of Orenthia “Pookie” Upshur, a 20-year-old Trenton resident who died 11 days earlier in a high-speed car wreck while being followed by police.

An inspection of the vehicle after the shooting revealed it had been hit five times. One bullet went through the back hatch of the SUV, through a steel panel that separates the luggage compartment from the rear seat and through the rear seat. The bullet dented another steel panel that separates the rear seat from the passenger seat, where Palumbo was sitting, according to photos shown by prosecutors.

One bullet hit the driver’s side door near the windshield, one lodged in the roof panels and another hit the luggage rack on top of the vehicle.

The fifth bullet hit the lights on top of the SUV, just inches from the top of Runyon’s head, he said.

“Realizing that three bullet holes missed your head by 3 inches is hard to describe,” Runyon said. “Makes you think about your family. Gosh, all I did was go to work that night.”

Palumbo said he has had a difficult time dealing with the incident, and has since been on desk duty. He will continue his testimony this afternoon.

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