The case of a Leavenworth man accused of pointing a gun at a police officer has been placed in the hands of jurors.
Jurors began to deliberate in the trial of John James Baskas shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday. As of press time, there was no word of a verdict.
Baskas is charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, cultivation of marijuana, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, violating the drug tax stamp law, misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
He is accused of pointing a gun at a police officer June 21, 2011, as members of the Leavenworth Police Department’s Special Weapons and Tactics Team entered a residence to serve a search warrant. The drug charges stem from items that reportedly were found during the search of the residence.
The incident occurred at 1104 N. 12th St. where Baskas lives with his parents.
Baskas did not deny having a gun. But he argued he was trying to defend his home and didn’t realize the SWAT members were law enforcement officers.
“I didn’t know they were officers at the time,” Baskas testified Wednesday, which was third day of his trial.
Baskas testified he’d been sleeping at his residence and was awakened by a loud bang.
Members of the SWAT Team previously testified that a noise flash diversionary device had been set off outside the residence.
Baskas said he heard a commotion in the home.
“I heard a loud commotion and a scream from my mom,” he said.
According to testimony from other witnesses, Baskas’ mother encountered the first officer who entered the residence.
Baskas testified he saw a dark figure that turned out to be a police officer. But he had been blinded by the officer’s flashlight and couldn’t identify the person.
The defendant said he had pointed a gun straight in front of him.
Baskas said he first heard “police” at the time he was shot.
During cross examination, County Attorney Todd Thompson referred to comments Baskas had posted on his Facebook page and argued the defendant has changed his story. Thompson said Baskas indicated in his Facebook comments that he had dropped a gun and kicked it over to the police but they shot him anyway.
“That’s what I remembered at the time,” Baskas said.
He said at the time he posted the comments he was going through withdrawal from medication and was angry.
Baskas was the only witness for the defense. One of the prosecution witnesses who testified Wednesday was police Sgt. Neil Vogel, the officer who shot Baskas.
Page 2 of 2 - Vogel testified members of the SWAT Team say, “Police Department search warrant” as they make their way through a home.
“We’re actually yelling it,” he said.
Vogel testified he saw Baskas come around a corner with a handgun.
Vogel said it appeared that Baskas was holding up the weapon and sliding the top of the gun to place a bullet in the chamber. Baskas then began to lower the firearm and point it at him.
Vogel said he felt threatened and scared.
According to testimony, Vogel fired three shots. Baskas suffered wounds to his arm and abdomen.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Edward Gillette said the case has always been about the weapon his client had at the time of the incident.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with marijuana,” he said.
The attorney said Baskas’ parents already pleaded to drug charges related to items found in the residence.
Gillette also argued that at some point marijuana will be legalized in Kansas the same as it has been in some areas.
Gillette said his client had “picked up a weapon to defend his home, his mother and himself.”
During his closing argument, Thompson said Vogel had been wearing a uniform with the word “police” printed across it.
Thompson said Baskas testified during the trial that he couldn’t see who Vogel was because of a flashlight. But the prosecutor said the testimony was different from the story the defendant had told the whole world when he posted the comments on Facebook.