Dr. Neil Spitalny testifies
A prominent Chattanooga surgeon who was caught up in an April 13 police raid of a poker game on Gunbarrel Road testified Tuesday that he thought the card players were being robbed "and that I would be mowed down with a machine gun."
Dr. Neil Spitalny said he was eating a vegetarian salad when he heard banging at the front of Suite 103 and shattering glass. "It sounded like the front of the building had collapsed," he said.
He said he tried to hide in a trash can, then was handcuffed. He said he volunteered to help one of the card players, who was shot by police after trying to exit the back door.
Charges against Clifford Billups that include attempted first-degree murder were bound to the Grand Jury by General Sessions Court Judge Ron Durby.
Chattanooga Police Officer John Patterson said he was part of the contingent of 10-12 officers at the raid and was guarding the back with one other officer.
He said one man ducked out the back, spotted him, then ran back inside.
Then he said four or five others ran out the back, and two of them fell to the ground near him.
He said one of those trying to get out the back (Billups) "began running slowly away while pointing a gun right at me."
Officer Patterson said, "I was certainly in fear for my life and I fired my gun to keep that from happening. The only way I can describe it is I was looking down the barrel of a cannon and was about to get my head blown off."
He said he fired three shots at Billups and one of the bullets struck him. He said Billups tossed the large handgun he was holding off to the side. He said after he was down Billups told police of a second handgun he had on him.
Dr. Spitalny said after he heard that someone had been shot out back, he announced that he was a surgeon and volunteered to go check on the victim. He said the lead officer was reluctant at first to let him go outside, then agreed to escort him out. He said he checked out Billups and found that his wound was not life-threatening. He said, "He was shot in the right flank. He was not in any dire situation."
Billups was treated and released. He is free on bond.
His attorney, Bill Speek, was prepared to call other of the gamblers to say that they, too, thought it was a robbery. But Judge Durby said he was not going to lower the charge and would bind the cases to the Grand Jury and allow Billups to stay out on the same bond.
Officer Patterson said he repeatedly heard officers inside yell, "Police" and "Search Warrant."
The card game had been under surveillance for four months after police got complaints about it, it was testified.