Vela trial puts PTSD back in the courtroom

The trial of a former Marine, shot during a standoff with Austin police, has put the issue of PTSD back in the courtroom. The case comes after the issue was raised during the American Sniper Trial. Gene Vela is charged with 2 counts of aggravated assault on a public servant. Wednesday the jury got to see what happened but they also heard conflicting accounts of why it happened.

Dash cam video and police body mics captured the moment a check welfare call at Gene Vela's central Austin apartment complex became a violent standoff. What unfolded, November 10, 2013, didn't have to happen because, according to defense attorney Skip Davis, the officers did not immediately identify themselves. Davis says Vela, a UT graduate student and Marine veteran, had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

During a cookout Vela had been drinking and later that evening a friend called 911 to report that Vela was having an emotional episode. Davis argues his client was mentally distraught because of his PTSD and he never realized police were at his door. Not until they finally identified themselves, said Davis, and not until after he was shot by snipers.

Paramedic Tera Neal described for the jury the chaotic scene moments after she and her partner reached Vela's second floor apartment.

"And the next thing we know one of the officers started yelling gun, gun, gun," said Neal.

They took shelter in a nearby unit after their escape route was cut off.

A tearful Neal testified as shots rang out she called her mother.

'My daughter is special needs and doesn't have anybody else and I called mom to make sure she'd take care of her if anything happened to me."

Police at the scene believed Vela was armed and targeting them with a laser. Officer Ryan Hancock testified the situation escalated because of Vela.

"He was walking at me ... already with an aggressive stance The laser was in my eyes I didn't even have my hand on my weapon by the time it would've taken me to draw down on him and start firing I would've been dead," said Hancock.

Police did recover a gun, but the laser device turned out to be a pointer and not the type that is mounted to a gun.

Testimony continues Thursday.


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