Judge allows statements by BAFB airman's accused killer

Judge allows statements by BAFB airman's accused killer
Benjamin Shaw, 21 (Source: Bossier City Police Department)
Benjamin Shaw, 21 (Source: Bossier City Police Department)
The late Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zechariah Casagranda. (Courtesy: Facebook)
The late Air Force Tech. Sgt. Zechariah Casagranda. (Courtesy: Facebook)

BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - A judge ruled on Tuesday that statements made to Bossier City Police by the accused killer of a Barksdale airman will be upheld and not suppressed.

Shaw, who at the time of the slaying was a Central Texas College student majoring in computer science and visiting Bossier City for the weekend, is charged with one count of second-degree murder.

Casagranda, a 34-year-old who was the assistant NCO in charge of 2nd Munitions Squadron line delivery at Barksdale, allegedly was stabbed during an altercation involving two groups of men in the nightclub's back parking lot.

Before a Bossier District Court judge Tuesday were several motions filed by Shaw's defense team, including one that the case be dismissed. It argues that Shaw acted in self-defense.

Bossier District Judge Michael Craig denied Shaw's attorneys' attempts to suppress statements Shaw made to Bossier City police the night he was arrested.

Sean Landers, of Jose Baez Law Firm, claimed that Shaw did not voluntarily give the statements and that police did not properly inform Shaw of his Miranda rights not to answer their questions.

Two Bossier City police detectives called to testify during Tuesday's hearing: Jeffrey Humphrey, who tracked down and arrested Shaw, and Michael Hardesty, who interrogated Shaw that night.

Humphrey testified in court that witnesses at Rockin' Rodeo saw three men running from the scene of the stabbing to the nearby Hampton Inn.

Hardesty, the lead detective in the case, testified he ordered the hotel be locked down while officers went door-to-door with surveillance photos of the suspects in-hand.

According to his testimony in court, Humphrey said he and two other detectives went up to the fourth floor and knocked on Room 404. Shaw's brother, Joseph Shaw, answered the door.

Humphrey said he noted another man was in the room with him, identified from one of the photographs: Jose Rodriguez. The detective testified he asked the two if there was anyone else in the room with them and they said 'No.'

When Humphrey and the other detectives checked all of the rooms on that floor and returned to the elevator, the detective testified he knew something else was going on in that room.

"I just had a gut feeling I was missing something," he testified.

The three detectives returned to Room 404 and asked if they could come in, which Joseph Shaw allowed. It was in that moment that Humphrey testified seeing what he believed to be someone under one of the bed's covers.

"It appeared to be a body," Humphrey said.

Humphrey said he asked Joseph Shaw what it was and he replied it was his brother,  Benjamin. When Humphrey testified asking Joseph why he lied about anyone else being in the room, he said Joseph replied Benjamin was sleeping and he didn't want to wake him up.

Hardesty's testimony detailed how he then arrived in the same floor just as all three men agreed to come out of the room. Hardesty reported he asked all three if they would be willing to come down to the police station for questioning and he said they all agreed.

Outside the hotel, Humphrey testified that he asked Benjamin Shaw if he had any weapons on him. When Shaw said he didn't, Humphrey testified he gave him a pat-down and discovered a knife inside his right sock.

During the officers' testimony, it was revealed that Humphrey did not read Shaw his Miranda rights when he handcuffed Shaw after discovering that knife.

Landers said in court that Humphrey should have read Shaw his rights before detaining him after discovering the knife.

"That detention was reasonable under the circumstance," the judge ruled.

Landers also argued that Hardesty didn't adequately inform Shaw of his right not to answer officers' questions while he was being interrogated.

Hardesty testified that he read Shaw his rights from a card before recording the interview and that Shaw signed it.

Hardesty further testified that he asked Shaw if he wanted to be interviewed without a lawyer present and Shaw agreed.

The recording of that interview was played in the courtroom. In it, Shaw denied even being at Rockin' Rodeo that night.

"We were at El Dorado," Shaw told Hardesty on the tape.

Hardesty informed Shaw during the interrogation that he was seen on surveillance footage at Rockin' Rodeo.

Eventually, Shaw said during the interview that he should have talked to a lawyer first but then proceeded to answer more of the detective's questions.

Landers argued that because Hardesty did not do more to clarify Shaw's wishes for a lawyer after agreeing to be interviewed, his client was never properly informed of his rights.

"One of the few rights a defendant has is not to talk to police," he argued in court. "The detective has the duty to not only to inform....but to make sure they truly understand."

But the judge said because Hardesty read Shaw his rights before the recorded interview even began and because Shaw signed his rights card and agreed to waive his right to an attorney at the onset, his statements to police will be upheld.

"They're not required to ask multiple times," Craig said.

Other defense motions centered on the preservation of evidence and a motion to dismiss the case entirely based on the fact that Shaw's actions were in self-defense. Landers withdrew that motion.

In February 2016, Shaw was released on a $500,000 bond and allowed to return to his hometown in Maine to live with his family.

His next court date is July 12.

The namesake of Jose Baez Law Firm is most famous for representing Casey Anthony, a Florida woman found not guilty of killing her daughter.

Also representing Shaw is ArkLaTex attorney A.M. Stroud.

Copyright 2017 KSLA. All rights reserved.