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Jurors hear 911 tapes in NY-NY casino shooting

Maryland police officers on vacation in Vegas offer accounts of shooting

Updated Thursday, July 9, 2009 | 6:31 p.m.

Casino shooting trial

Steven Francis Zegrean, 53, pleaded not guilty to 52 felony charges in the July 2007 shooting at the New York-New York casino. He is shown July 7, 2009. Launch slideshow »

Jurors on Thursday heard 911 tapes of people calling from inside the New York-New York casino on July 6, 2007, reporting gunfire.

The first calls came less than a minute after a gunman fired a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol from the second-floor balcony down on the casino floor at about 12:43 a.m.

Callers, some of them panicked and crying, reported people scattering from the building or hiding behind slot machines and under tables.

Las Vegas resident Steven Zegrean, 53, was arrested on the scene and has been charged with 52 felony counts in connection with the incident. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Prosecutors played nine calls, one of them from hotel security. An emergency operator told one caller, “We have a lot of people calling this in right now.”

Jurors heard from several more witnesses who described the panic and chaos that ensued following the shooting. Authorities said Zegrean fired 16 shots, injuring four people.

Medical experts who treated two of the wounded testified Thursday to the severity of their injuries.

Christine Harrison, a nerve and muscle technologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, conducted tests on victim Carrie Zeravica’s left leg. Zeravica, who was visiting from Pittsburgh, suffered nerve damage caused by a bullet that partially paralyzed her leg below the knee, Harrison said.

Mark Bell, a physician’s assistant at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, said a bullet fragment was removed from Troy Sanchez’s left foot. More fragments remain in the 15-year-old boy’s leg but currently pose no threat, Bell said.

The other two injured hotel guests testified Thursday.

Apryl Jackson testified that a bullet grazed her left arm. While it caused no severe physical damage, Jackson said she is now paranoid in public places and worries more about her husband, who is a SWAT officer in their home state of Maryland.

Fernando Maestas, an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Air Force, said a bullet fragment grazed his right hand but caused no permanent damage.

As testimony began Thursday, one witness admitted that he gave conflicting statements to prosecutors in his testimony Wednesday.

While watching a surveillance video of the incident, David James told Deputy District Attorney David Schubert on Wednesday that at first, he didn’t see Zegrean point a pistol at him on the mezzanine level inside the casino.

About 10 minutes later in his testimony, James told Schubert that Zegrean pointed the gun “at his head.”

Thursday, after attorneys had time to review his testimony, James admitted he made a mistake with his first statement.

“To all of you, everything is moving fast. To me, everything was so slow. A second seemed like a minute,” he said.

The defense said James also didn’t tell investigators about the gun being pointed at him and he didn’t include that information in his written statement given shortly after Zegrean was arrested.

The video captured by casino cameras shows a man identified as Zegrean extending his arm with the pistol but no one is visible in the frame in the direction in which he is aiming. Zegrean had not fired the gun at that point.

Wednesday was the first time James had seen the video. He said he ducked behind a merchant’s stand but kept his eyes on Zegrean.

The video showed Zegrean continue walking until Justin Lampert, an Army National Guardsman from North Dakota, jumped onto his back and wrestled him to the floor.

James ran to help Lampert try to control Zagrean and said he kicked the gunman in the head.

Zegrean, 53, is charged with 52 counts stemming from the shooting on July 6, 2007, in which four people were injured.

Keith Jackson, Apryl Jackson’s husband and a deputy with the Harford County (Md.) Sheriff’s Office, provided testimony that he saw Zegrean leaning over the edge of the railing from the mezzanine, firing the 9 mm semi-automatic pistol in a sweeping motion across the casino floor.

Keith Jackson wasn’t armed at the time. He said Zegrean had a tactical advantage from being on higher ground.

The Jacksons were vacationing with friends and family. Two of their friends also are police officers.

One of them testified Thursday. Christopher Gibbons, a deputy with the Harford County Sheriff’s Office's canine unit, said that from where he stood, he could see muzzle fire from Zegrean’s gun.

Gibbons said Zegrean was near 20 or 30 people -- including some on the mezzanine -- who would have been easy targets for Zegrean to hit.

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