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MAHONING COUNTY TRIAL Sebring police officer says he felt his life was in danger



Published: Thu, April 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The officer said he feared being shot during the arrest.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- A Sebring man is on trial in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court, accused of pulling a gun on a Sebring policeman during an arrest in January.

Alan J. Christian, 35, of East Maryland Avenue, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of felonious assault, and could get an additional three years for using a firearm.

Officer Michael Porter told the four male and eight female jurors Wednesday that he and Christian engaged in a life-and-death-struggle over the semiautomatic .45-caliber handgun.

"He was trying to point the weapon toward my face," Porter said. "If I had let go of his hand, I honestly believe he was going to shoot me."

Porter said he could have shot Christian but would have done so only as a last resort.

Assistant Prosecutor Robert Andrews said Christian's girlfriend, Deborah Hudson, called police around 3 a.m. Jan. 18 because the couple had been in a fight. Christian was gone when police arrived, but was found a short time later in a house on West Ohio Avenue.

Describes struggle

Porter said Christian refused to get up out of the chair he was sitting in, and cursed at the officer when he was asked to submit to being arrested.

Christian reached under the chair and pulled out the gun, which belonged to a man who lived in the house, Andrews said. Porter immediately drew his own weapon, pointed it at Christian and ordered him to drop the gun.

Cathleen Fellure, who lived in the Ohio Avenue home, dived across Christian's lap in an attempt to take the gun away from him, Porter said. She eventually fell to the floor, but Porter had grabbed Christian's right wrist by then. Christian was holding the gun in his right hand.

Porter said he held Christian's right hand above his head as they struggled, facing each other, and he could feel Christian trying to point the gun toward Porter.

A second officer, Dan Guy, arrived and joined in the struggle, forcing Christian to drop the gun. Christian was handcuffed and put in the back seat of a police car, where he kicked out one of the rear windows.

Defense argument

In his opening statement, defense attorney Mark Lavelle said Porter pulled his gun and aimed it point-blank at the face of Christian, who was unarmed. Christian grabbed Porter's gun and the fight ensued.

Lavelle said even if Christian had pulled a gun, there was no proof he intended to shoot Porter.

The trial was to continue today in the courtroom of Judge Robert Lisotto.

bjackson@vindy.com




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