A Georgetown man on trial for assault and resisting arrest says he feared for his life when a trooper came into his home for a traffic investigation but after a scuffle drew his gun and shot him.
Michael W. Rogers, 54, is charged with third-degree assault of a police officer and resisting arrest; police say he fought with a trooper who had gone to Rogers' home to investigate a traffic accident at a nearby bar. The assault charge was originally a felony, but it was reduced June 26 to a misdemeanor charge.
Taking the stand in his own defense June 26, Rogers said, "I felt like I did what I had to do to save my life."
Rogers testimony capped a week-long trial in Sussex County Superior Court with Judge T. Henley Graves presiding. Following closing arguments June 26, jury deliberations began.
Rogers told the jury he began his Aug. 2 birthday celebration a day early on Aug. 1, 2013, ending up at a nearby bar about 8 p.m. While leaving the establishment, Rogers said he accidentally bumped into another car with his car. The owner of the car was nearby, and Rogers said he offered his insurance card, but the owner declined.
"The owner said not to worry about it," Rogers said.
He returned home, ate a bit of dinner and called it a night, he said. About 10 p.m., Rogers' mother, Lorraine, heard a knock on the door and opened it to Delaware State Police Trooper Matthew Morgan.
Morgan testified earlier in the week about going to Rogers' home to investigate a traffic accident, intending to give him an $89 inattentive driving ticket. Once he was inside the home, Morgan testified, Lorraine woke Rogers, who appeared drunk and disoriented.
Rogers said Morgan asked him why he left the scene of the accident; Rogers replied it had been taken care of.
"I didn't feel I was being smart," Rogers said. "I told him I talked to the guy, and we worked it out. It was a done deal."
Both men testified Rogers walked away from Morgan in answer to his questions about the traffic incident.
Their accounts differ on what happened next.
Morgan said he followed Rogers into his bedroom where a scuffle began after Morgan touched his tricep. Evidence submitted at the trial shows a Taser was deployed in or near the bedroom.
Rogers and Lorraine Rogers both testified that Morgan shot a Taser and hit Rogers in the back outside his bedroom door.
All three testified that Rogers put Morgan in a headlock during their fight; Rogers testified Morgan burst open the closed door of his bedroom and tackled him first.
Throughout the scuffle, Morgan said he was trying to get his gun, and Rogers said he was trying to stop Morgan from reaching his gun, biting him in the arm at one point.
"I did not touch him first. I did not move toward him ... I felt like I did what I had to do to save my life," Rogers said. "No one would want to be in a position that I was in."
In answer to Lorraine's pleading to let go, she said, Rogers eased up and Morgan went to the front of the home.
Morgan testified that Rogers never threatened him or tried to get a weapon. Morgan also said he never gave Rogers any command and, until the scuffle, had no reason to arrest him.
All three testified that after the scuffle, Morgan positioned himself near the front door.
“He was standing there holding that gun waiting for Michael to come out of the bedroom,” Lorraine Rogers said. Outside of the bedroom, Rogers told Morgan not to shoot his mother, she said.
Morgan testified that Rogers picked up the coffee table and came at him in the living room, using the table as a weapon. Morgan said he feared for his life.
“All I can recall is seeing a table coming at me,” Morgan said.
He said he fired seven shots at Rogers in self defense.
In his testimony, Rogers said he put his hands up when ordered by Morgan, who had drawn his gun. An instant later, Rogers testified he realized he had been shot and ducked behind the coffee table, which is now riddled with seven bullet holes.
Rogers said he was hit by five bullets and grazed by one. One bullet remains inside him, he said. "Bullets were flying; everything was flying," Rogers said. "I felt like I was paralyzed. I couldn't feel my legs."
In closing arguments, Deputy Attorney General David Hume reminded the jury that Rogers brought the charges on himself through his combative actions.
"He's 12 beers into his personal party. He's not thinking rationally," Hume said.
Defense attorney Andrew Jezic questioned the rationale that brought a state trooper to Rogers' home at 10 p.m. Aug. 1, 2013.
"This was all about an $89 ticket. Is that right? It's not right," he said.
Speaking during a break, Hume said the $89 inattentive driving ticket was never filed because of the charges resulting from the ensuing scuffle.