Testimony begins in Wallin-Reed murder trial
Justin Smyth said nobody in the car had a gun the night they were fleeing from a man who was shooting at them.
Smyth said he wished they had a gun.
“Why?” asked District Attorney David Hollister.
“To defend ourselves,” Smyth answered.
Smyth was the first witness to testify in the murder trial of Gregory Chad Wallin-Reed on Tuesday, Sept. 3, in Plumas County Superior Court in Quincy.
Smyth was one of six Susanville men in a car that was being chased by Wallin-Reed on July 2, 2011. Wallin-Reed was shooting at them with a handgun and an AR-15 assault weapon after he caught the young men stealing solar lights from his property along the Janesville grade near Antelope Lake.
The 8-mile chase ended with a barrage of gunfire from Wallin-Reed that left the car’s driver, Rory McGuire, 20, with a mortal head wound. He died two days later.
Smyth (who was 20 at the time) and Robert Osornio, 19, suffered gunshot wounds in the leg.
John Chanley, 20; Richard Chanley, 19; and Cesar Gonzalez, 20, were not injured.
The trial for Wallin-Reed, 38, of Reno, is expected to last up to a month.
In addition to murder, Wallin-Reed faces seven other felony counts, including shooting at an occupied vehicle, five counts of assault with a deadly weapon and possession of an assault weapon.
During opening statements, the district attorney said the Susanville men admitted they were wrong for stealing the lights and attempted to surrender by waiving a white shirt out the window while they were under fire.
Defense attorneys told the jurors (10 women and two men) that Wallin-Reed only fired his weapons after the Susanville men shot at him first.
They said Wallin-Reed was a family man with no criminal record. They said he was merely defending his home from people who were stealing from him.
Attorneys for both sides agreed the trial could hinge on whether or not the Susanville men were armed. Investigators didn’t find a gun at, or near, the scene.
Several dozen witnesses were scheduled to testify during the trial, including more than 20 for the prosecution. The witnesses include some of the men who were in the car July 2, doctors who treated the victims, officers and investigators. Expert witnesses are also expected to testify for both sides.
The district attorney said he planned to rest his case Sept. 12 or 16.
The defense has not said whether Wallin-Reed will testify.
About 50 people attended the first day of the trial amid stepped-up security by the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office. Some of McGuire’s family members chose to leave the courtroom before graphic images of the crime scene were projected on a screen for the jury.
The trial’s first week also included emotional testimony from a friend of McGuire’s, Jay Badeker. Badeker became emotional while he was on the stand, prompting muffled crying in the courtroom.
But it was Smyth’s testimony that appeared to set the tone for the trial. He faced intense cross-examination from Richard Young, one of Wallin-Reed’s two attorneys.
Judge Ira Kaufman agreed with at least five objections from the district attorney regarding Young’s tactics. After ruling several of Young’s questions for Smyth “argumentative,” Kaufman called attorneys for both sides to the bench for a private discussion.
Young asked Smyth about someone in the car possibly having a gun. He asked Smyth, hypothetically, “If there was a gun involved, it would make it a very serious set of circumstances. … Wouldn’t you agree?”
“Yes,” Smyth replied. “It would be pretty significant if there was a gun involved on our part. But, the fact is, there wasn’t.”
Smyth described the events that led up to the shooting, beginning the previous night, July 1, when the men stole a solar light and a sign from Wallin-Reed’s driveway.
He said they were returning from Antelope Lake late at night when they stopped at the end of Wallin-Reed’s driveway to look at a “crazy” sign one of the men had noticed earlier.
The sign read: WARNING You are entering the R.O.C. This is a restricted area. Only red blooded patriotic Christian Americans are authorized for access upon approval and verification of credentials by the commanding authority. The use of deadly force is authorized for use on those found in non-compliance with above.
After one of the men shined a spotlight on the sign, Smyth said one of the men got out of the car, and took a different, smaller, sign and stole a solar light.
On the night of the shooting, Smyth said the men returned to the property and took a second solar light. He said they were on their way to Antelope Lake to go camping.
“You agree that taking the solar lights was wrong?” Hollister asked.
“Yes,” Smyth said.
Smyth said the men soon heard the first shot and sped off for the lake.
When they realized Wallin-Reed was following them and still shooting, Smyth said they decided to throw the solar lights out the window.
“We thought that by throwing them out it would show that we were hoping to give back the property,” Smyth testified.
When the shooting did not stop, Smyth said one of the men waved a white shirt out the window. He said they were also shining the spotlight at the truck behind them.
He said the men could see the dot of a laser moving around the inside of the car.
Smyth said McGuire missed a turn and they ended up on a dirt road. He said he had his head down at this point.
He said McGuire thought the road was a dead end and attempted to turn around. He said more bullets hit the car and the windows “shattered” and “exploded,” covering the men with glass.
Smyth testified the final volley of gunfire consisted of “eight to 10” shots. One of the bullets struck him in the right calf.
“I didn’t feel pain, but I knew I had been shot,” he said.
He said that is when the car came to a stop and he lifted his head. He said three of the men (John Chanley, Richard Chanley and Cesar Gonzalez) got out of the car and fled.
Smyth said the person who was shooting at them got out of his truck and approached the car. He said it was the first time he saw the man’s face.
“Do you see him in court today?” Hollister asked.
Smyth pointed to Wallin-Reed, who was wearing civilian clothing sitting to the left of his attorneys, Young and John Ohlson.
Smyth said Wallin-Reed walked up to the car, carrying a rifle with a laser light, and said to the three remaining men in the car, “You mother(expletive)s come and shoot. … I’ve got kids.”
Smyth said he and Osornio told Wallin-Reed, “We didn’t shoot at your house.”
Smyth said Osornio asked Wallin-Reed if he had been in the military. “He replied ‘yes’ and Robert said that he had also.
“We asked him to please call an ambulance, because he may have killed our friend,” Smyth said.
Smyth said Wallin-Reed didn’t reply. Instead, he walked around the car, looked in the front of the car, and then pointed the gun at Smyth, who was in the back seat next to Osornio.
He said Wallin-Reed then returned to his truck and left the scene.
Wallin-Reed called Plumas County sheriff’s dispatchers to report the shooting at 11:29 p.m. The log entry stated, “He thinks he shot the driver.” He told the dispatcher that the men in the car were armed.
After Wallin-Reed left the scene, Smyth said the other men who ran from the car returned. He said they moved McGuire to the back seat “because he was in pretty bad condition,” and tried to start the car.
He said the car wouldn’t start and none of their cellphones had a signal. So Gonzalez and Richard Chanley left to try to get help.
About that time, Smyth said his leg was hurting badly and he was getting “tired and numb.”
“It felt like my whole pant leg was full of something,” Smyth said. “I pulled my pant leg down and it sounded like somebody had poured a full glass of water on the ground.
“My calf was pretty much exploded. I didn’t realize it was that bad.”
He said before police officers arrived, they tried to talk to McGuire a couple times.
“Every once in a while we would get something out of him, but mostly (he was) incoherent,” Smyth said.
McGuire was flown to Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno. He was taken off of life support and died July 4.
Smyth was flown to Enloe in Chico where he underwent the first of two surgeries on his leg.
Osornio was treated at Plumas District Hospital with a bullet still lodged in his leg.
Wallin-Reed was arrested on July 3. He was charged with murder after McGuire died the following day.
Testimony in the trial was scheduled to resume Monday, Sept. 9.
The trial has captured the attention of the national media. A crew from Dateline NBC has been shooting video — including the opening statements in the courtroom — and will have a producer in the courtroom for the duration of the trial.