It’s up to the jury to decide if Leslie Marie McCulley goaded her boyfriend into trying a kill a cop before the officer returned fire and shot her lover dead on a wild morning in Sacramento last year.
McCulley is on trial for the attempted murder of an officer in the May 18, 2012, shootout in a Land Park back yard where a police dog named Bodie took a bullet in the jaw before the defendant’s boyfriend, Lucus Jerome Webb, was fatally dispatched by the K-9’s handler.
In closing arguments Tuesday in McCulley’s trial, Deputy District Attorney Tate Davis extracted the 30-year-old defendant’s own words from phone conversations from jail with friends and family to say there is no doubt she shared her dead 33-year-old boyfriend’s intent.
“Are you going to pull that (gun)?” McCulley, in a phone call to a friend two days after the shooting, quoted herself as saying to Webb as the two of them tried to lose the police in a high-speed chase through the Hollywood Park and Land Park neighborhoods. “If you don’t want to pull the (expletive), you better throw it back to me, ’cause I’ll handle that (expletive),” McCulley continued, in the conversation in recalling her remarks to Webb.
Moments later, she and Webb abandoned their stolen car that hit speeds of 80 mph and tore through St. Robert School in Hollywood Park while scores of kids were on the playground, authorities said.
Police subdued her in a foot chase. He got cornered in a backyard in the 1100 block of Robertson Way, in Land Park.
Bodie the police dog was the first responder. As Bodie made his move, Webb pulled .357 revolver and shot the dog once in the lower jaw and right paw, according to the prosecution. Sacramento police Officer Randy Van Dusen came in right behind the dog. Van Dusen testified he stepped to his right while Webb aimed, fired again and missed. The officer then shot back and killed Webb.
The dog survived his injuries and is still recovering. The officer was unhurt.
Davis told a Sacramento Superior Court jury in front of Judge Greta Curtis Fall that McCulley did more than just share Webb’s intent to kill a cop. The DA quoted her as admitting to waving the gun “feloniously” during the chase. Davis said she also fired it anywhere from one to three times by the time an officer tackled her near Riverside Boulevard and Swanson Drive, around the corner from where Webb tried to hide.
Assistant Public Defender Rachel Engle said there was no forensic evidence that McCulley fired the gun, except for an accidental blast when she and Webb tried to hustle out of the stolen car to try and get away on foot.
Her client had no idea what Webb was going to do in the back yard on Robertson Way, Engle said. In taking the gun away from Webb during the chase, Engle said McCulley only tried to stop him from doing something crazy with it.
“We know it’s his gun,” she told the jury. “The only reason she took that gun was to prevent it from going off, to prevent Lucus from shooting, to prevent Lucus from shooting a police officer.”
Webb bragged to friends he once shot a cop, but authorities have not confirmed it.
McCulley, from Chico, had been released from jail in Butte County the day before the Land Park shootout. Online Butte Superior Court records showed she pleaded no contest to felony possession of methamphetamine on May 9, 2012, and had been approved for placement in a Proposition 36 drug treatment program on May 15. Her record shows a previous felony conviction for possession of methamphetamine for sale.
The night of her release, she met up with Webb in Susanville, according to Engle. They drove to Sacramento on a drug deal the next day, police said, along with two uncharged accomplices, in a stolen Toyota. While they were driving around town, a Sacramento police officer ran a routine check on their license plates and determined the car was stolen, according to evidence at trial. When officers tried to pull them over, the chase was on, first through Sacramento City College, and later onto the St. Robert School playground on Irwin Way with children on it.
Officers chased them into otherwise quiet residential neighborhoods, speeding through stop signs and flying over speed bumps, back across Freeport and into Land Park, with police car cameras giving jurors a virtual ride-along. Once McCulley and Webb turned pedestrian, one police camera showed them crossing a street as if nothing had happened. When the officer told them to stop, Webb shouted back at him, “I’m not on probation or parole.” The officer got out of his car and the two took off running, according to the camera shot.
Besides her methamphetamine cases, McCulley also two misdemeanor convictions. One is for second-degree burglary for an apparent theft at a Raley’s. The second was for being an accessory after the fact to an assault on a Butte County peace officer with a firearm in March 2010, a case that Davis characterized as instructive about her mindset two years later.
In the Butte County case, Davis said she took a .44 handgun away from a boyfriend who crashed a car and ran into her house. She hid in a closet with the gun, and when police found her, she pointed it at them in the “ready fire position,” Davis said.
“That tells you exactly what’s on her mind,” the prosecutor said.
Engle, however, said her client’s boyfriend “was like a freight train that day,” on crank and out of control, “and nothing was going to stop him.” She quoted McCulley as telling friends on the phone, “I didn’t want him to shoot the cop,” and, “I was trying to take control the only way I know how.”