Prosecutors played surveillance footage in court Tuesday that showed a Casper man walking into Wyoming Medical Center, wandering around, pulling a gun, scaring and allegedly threatening two hospital employees, and shooting seven times into walls, doors and an elevator.
For the prosecutors, those moments are the be-all and end-all in the aggravated assault trial against Mitchell Taylor, 20, which entered its second day Tuesday. The video shows him walking into the building, past the signs warning that weapons are prohibited and past the arrows pointing him toward the ER.
For Taylor and his attorney, Joseph Cole, what happened around those moments are also critical. Cole had previously objected to the video — and did so again Tuesday — because it’s a compilation of different angles, showing different subjects. He expressed concerns about the veracity of the timestamps, as well. Forgey denied the motion and allowed the video to be shown to the jury.
In the video played to the jury and courtroom Tuesday morning, the second day of Taylor’s trial, Taylor is seen pulling up to the hospital just before 12:40 a.m. March 4. His white sedan pulls into the hospital’s valet lot and drives over a concrete parking barrier before pulling alongside a few other cars.
The video footage then cuts to a camera inside the hospital’s main foyer, which at that time of the day is locked and closed. Taylor tries repeatedly to get in through those closed doors before he gives up. Just after 12:45 a.m., he walks into the hospital through the emergency room doors. He’s wearing a black jacket and jeans. He walks past the ER entrance — and the security desk that anyone trying to enter the ER must go through — and continues down a hall.
There, Taylor eventually hits a T-intersection. He turns left, and his face is briefly captured by the camera. He looks anguished. He is not yet holding the gun.
He is next shown walking in front of a pair of elevators. He lies on his back in front of them for a few moments, before rolling onto his stomach and placing his chin on his hands. Then he rolls onto his back again. His mouth is moving, as if he’s talking to someone. He keeps rolling around on the ground, curling into the fetal position before turning again onto his back. He stretches his arm out, as if gesturing to someone, his mouth still moving.
Eventually Taylor rolls into a sitting position and then goes onto his knees. He first presses his palms against his face before pushing them out from him, his hands turned upward and the outside of his pinkies pressed together. It looks almost like he’s begging for something. His mouth is moving even more now and, though there’s no audio, it looks like he’s yelling. He then stands up and walks out of frame. Another camera picks him up, and Taylor is shown slapping his hand against a closed door down the hall, the same door he came through a few minutes before.
He returns to the elevators, unzips his jacket, reaches inside of it and pulls out the handgun — a 9 mm Springfield XD with an extended magazine. He has it loaded with 16 bullets. He then crouches between the two elevators, beneath the small silver control panel that calls them. He crouches there for a moment and eventually pulls the slide on the weapon, racking a round into the chamber. He continues to crouch and continues to talk to himself.
As the video played for the jury, Cole repeatedly asked David Hulshizer — the hospital’s head of security, who provided the footage to authorities — if there’s anyone else in the hallway. In other words: Was there anyone there that Taylor could be talking to?
Hulshizer repeatedly said no.
Then, apparently hearing something, Taylor stands up, sheds the jacket and backs into a corner, the video shows. He’s holding the gun in both hands for a moment, with the barrel pointed back down the hallway, where he originally came from.
Then he steps out of frame and pulls the trigger. Smoke can be seen lifting to the top of the room. In another video, Amy Deskins — a housekeeper at the hospital — is shown pushing her cart down the hallway when she reaches the doors that Taylor came through. Hulshizer testified that he believes that Taylor heard Deskins coming, which is why he stood up, shed his jacket and lifted the gun.
Cole disagreed, saying that Hulshizer can’t know that definitively.
In any case, Deskins pushes the automatic button to make the doors open. She sees Taylor, who allegedly asks her, “What are you looking at?”
Deskins can be seen running. She testified Tuesday that she heard the first shot a few moments later. By that time, she said, she was at the security desk at the front of the emergency room.
“I didn’t tell myself to run, and I didn’t tell myself to yell, I just did it,” she testified, adding that she “thought (she) was going to get shot in the back” as she ran away.
With the housekeeper gone and the first shots fired, the cameras show Taylor now crouching by the doors that Deskins ran through. His body is mostly out of sight, but his right arm — and the gun it’s holding — are visible. The gun can be seen firing, bucking his arm upward.
Meanwhile, further down the hall, Dr. Paul Bettinger exits the ER and walks into the hallway. He testified Tuesday that he saw Taylor, saw the gun and ran. He said he was back in the ER when heard four or five more shots. The shots were fired in the direction that Bettinger had been standing.
Taylor then stands up and walks down the hallway from which Deskins came. Taylor walks through a set of doors and into a tunnel. There are no more cameras in the tunnel, but Taylor followed the passage underground, across Conwell Street and into an engineering building. He was arrested there shortly after by several Casper Police Department officers, one of whom testified that Taylor screamed at the officers to kill him.
Prosecutors say that video shows Taylor committing two acts of aggravated assault — one against Deskins, the other against Bettinger. Cole, meanwhile, maintains that the evidence to suggest that Taylor threatened the two hospital employees “just isn’t there.” He continued to take issue with the video throughout the day. At one point, he repeatedly argued with Cole about why the video was cut the way it was. The two argued, and Judge Daniel Forgey had to intervene.
“Stop,” the judge said. “There’s no question pending. Next question.”
Cole continued to prod Hulshizer about the video and why it didn’t show a continuous feed from one angle. Hulshizer told him that the hospital provided what the police department requested. Eventually, Hulshizer asked Cole what he was implying. Before Cole could answer, Forgey jumped in again: “Next question.”
Tuesday afternoon — after playing the video and questioning Hulshizer, Bettinger, a pair of police officers and Deskins — prosecutors rested their case against Taylor. After the jury walked out of the room, Cole asked Forgey to dismiss both charges, arguing that prosecutors didn’t have the evidence to support two counts of aggravated assault.
Forgey denied the motion. Cole walked around the defense table to where Taylor was sitting. The attorney dropped to a knee and asked the 20-year-old if he wanted to testify. It was unclear what Taylor said, but Cole stood up and told the judge that his client would like to testify.
After running through formalities with Taylor, Forgey mentioned what he had ruled last week: that Taylor could not mention that he was high on LSD at the time of the shooting.
Taylor replied that he was “barely lucid” during the incident, but that he remembers everything that happened. Still, the reminder that Taylor cannot mention his drug use prompted a protest from Cole.
“Your Honor, how do we get a fair trial if we can’t say why he’s at the hospital?” he asked. The prosecutors, Cole continued, repeatedly mentioned how many signs Taylor passed. Now the defense was being prevented from presenting its own reasoning for Taylor’s actions.
Taylor “thought (he) was dead; (he) thought he was seeing things,” Cole continued. Taylor pulled the trigger because he thought it would prove that he was still alive, Cole claimed.
“The jury should know why he’s speaking into the air,” he said, visibly frustrated. “It certainly does complete the picture.”
But Forgey was unmoved. After a short recess, he denied Cole’s efforts. Taylor — and the defense at large — cannot mention his drug use.
Taylor is set to testify in his own defense Wednesday, and the trial will likely conclude later that same day.