Porch shooting ‘happened quickly,’ Judge Berg testifies

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

U.S. District Judge Terrence Berg detailed in court Tuesday what happened the night he was shot in the leg on his front porch after refusing to let an unknown man inside his home.

Berg said he was approached in March 2015 by two unknown men as he was taking garbage cans to the side of his house in Detroit’s University District and walking back toward his porch.

One stayed behind while the other followed Berg up on his porch, reached into his jacket and pulled out a gun. He said they didn’t want to harm him but wanted to get inside his home.

“I said ‘no, no, no.’ Then he said ‘we have a gun.’ Everything happened quickly. I didn’t want them to come into the house,” Berg testified in Wayne Circuit Court in the trial of Kevin Andre Smith Jr., who’s accused of shooting Berg. “He had a gun. I was concerned he might harm my family or me.”

Berg said he was taking garbage cans to the side of his house and was walking back toward his front porch when he was approached by two men. One of the told followed him up on his porch, went into his jacket and pulled out a gun. He testified the shooter was no more than three feet away from him and showed him the gun — a large, semi-automatic handgun with a wide barrel — before firing it.

“He went bam and shot me in the leg” Berg said. “I fell on my right side. I started yelling ‘Help, I’ve been shot . Call 911.’ ”

Berg’s wife, Anita Sevier, ran to her husband’s side after hearing his cries after he was shot and lying on the family’s front porch, Berg said. Sevier, whom Berg called a “brave person,” yelled an obscenity at the perpetrators as they fled. The judge said he asked his wife not to chase after the men because he knew they were armed.

He said the two perpetrators got into a car parked on the street next to his house.

Neighbors, including an emergency room physician, ran to Berg’s aid as they waited for police and paramedics to arrive. Police ended up rushing Berg to the Sinai Grace Hospital before EMS arrived.

Berg said he was conscious when he arrived at the hospital and again when he was interviewed by police and federal agents. He testified he was registered at the hospital under an alias, “Bill Donahue,” the name of a childhood friend, for security reasons.

Berg identified the perpetrator who shot him as an African-American male, 18-22 years-old, with a slender build, distinctive eyes and slight facial hair in a goatee style.

The shooter wore something over his head, said Berg, which might have been a hoodie or a hat. Both perpetrators wore black. But, he testified, he could not positively identify the man.

Berg, who has been a federal judge for the Eastern District of Michigan for 31/2 years, said he went through numerous surgeries as part of the recovery after he was shot in his knee cap.

Smith faces numerous charges including assault with intent to commit murder, conspiracy to commit armed robbery and armed robbery.

He and two others were part of a home invasion ring responsible for a string of robberies from January to May 2015 as “a way to make a living,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Moran said in his opening statement.

He added some of the victims included an elderly woman who was forced to into her westside home at gunpoint and forced to lie down on the floor while she was robbed by masked men in May 2015.

Two of Smith’s co-conspirators are expected to testify against him during the trial.

Under cross-examination by Smith’s attorney, John McWilliams, Berg admitted he could not positively identify the man who shot him, although he said Smith’s eyes were distinctive and what he remembered how the shooter’s eyes looked.

“The eyes are similar but that’s really all I can say about that,” Berg said.

McWilliams said after court the foundation of his defense strategy is the lack of Berg’s identification of his client as the shooter.

“He did not (identify) him and I’m sure (Berg’s wife) won’t,” McWilliams said, when she testifies. “Only the co-conspirators will because of the break they got.”

The road to recovery from the shooting has been a long and painful one, Berg said. He said he’s had numerous surgeries after the bullet became lodged in his kneecap and caused other extensive damage to his leg. He wasn’t able to walk for three months and has had to give up a favorite hobby of running. He is no longer able to run with his running group and still suffers pain 14 months after the shooting.

“The good thing is I can walk,” Berg said. “I can’t do all the thing I used to do.”

Berg returned to the bench after several months of recovery.

Berg is expected to continue his testimony Wednesday when court resumes around 9 a.m. His wife is also expected to take the witness stand.

The trial, expected to last through the middle of next week, is being held before Judge Timothy Kenny.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com

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