Victim put faith in the system

Man wounded by shotgun blasts decided to help authorities bring his attackers to justice.

06/03/2012 5:00 AM

05/16/2014 6:38 PM

After an acquaintance blasted Russell Logan in the head and arm with a shotgun in 2009, Logan wanted to retaliate.

“Instead of me having to wait for him to take another shot at me, I thought maybe it would be better to get him out of the way,” Logan said.

But a call from Logan’s mother squelched that idea. She knew her son had made a few bad decisions, one of which landed him in prison for attempted robbery. Fearing he might handle the shooting on his own, she reminded him what was at stake.

“Why risk everything and go back (to prison) and never see your kids again?” she told him. “Think about what’s best for you.”

Logan fought his impulses, trusted the justice system and cooperated with the same prosecutor’s office that had put him behind bars nine years earlier.

The decision placed Logan among the minority of shooting victims in Kansas City — those who cooperate with law enforcement. The process tested his patience at times, he said, but in the end he did not regret it.

“I felt kind of nervous dealing with police, because I didn’t have good run-ins with them,” he said. “I kept telling myself, ‘You’re not doing this just for yourself, but for your kids, too.’ ”

The attack

Logan, 31, grew up in Kansas City with a “pretty normal life.” In his midtown neighborhood, break-ins, not flying bullets, were the primary concern. His family later moved to a Northland neighborhood, where he attended high school.

He moved out on his own at 16, had a son and worked at a warehouse. Two years later, Independence police arrested him and two others for a failed holdup at a Sonic restaurant.

Logan pleaded guilty and spent most of the next seven years behind bars. While incarcerated, he vowed never to return.

After being paroled in September 2006, he had more children and worked to stay out of trouble. He mentored troubled youth, including an 18-year-old man whom he agreed to help install a car stereo one spring day in 2009.

As the pair tinkered with the car in the friend’s driveway, two people drove up. One stepped out of the car holding a shotgun behind his back.

“I heard you been talking (expletive),” the man said to Logan.

Logan recognized him as someone he met two days earlier — a new friend to the mother of Logan’s oldest children. Logan recalled telling the mother to make sure he treated their children right. The conversation — perhaps with some distortions — apparently had made it back to the man.

The man swung at Logan but missed. Logan put up his fists, ready to fight. But the man raised the shotgun and marched toward Logan, who stumbled backward.

The gunman fired. Birdshot smashed into the right side of Logan’s head. Logan ran toward his friend’s front door and reached for the handle. A second shot pounded his right arm before he could slip indoors.

His friend’s mother heard the commotion. She wrapped Logan’s head with a towel. He briefly blacked out.

Logan awoke as paramedics cut off his smoldering jacket, which was embedded with hot lead.

Doctors closed Logan’s head wound with 13 stitches. They didn’t try to remove any of the lead lumps from his elbow or forearm. They feared causing nerve damage.

Logan spent an anxious day and a half in the hospital knowing the gunman remained free. Then he stayed with a relative, from whose home police picked him up and took him downtown to get a detailed statement. His friend who witnessed the attack also cooperated. Both identified the gunman and accomplice from police photo spreads.

In the weeks that followed, Logan encountered the gunman several times. Each time, Logan called police, but by the time officers arrived the suspect had left.

Logan grew frustrated.

He told detectives he understood why some victims took matters into their own hands.

“Don’t do that,” police told him, “because then we’ll have to come get you.”

The trial

Seven weeks after the shooting, police arrested the gunman. It took 11 months to find the driver. Jackson County prosecutors charged each with first-degree assault and armed criminal action.

Logan met about a half dozen times with prosecutors and defense attorneys for depositions.

Before trial, a relative of the getaway driver begged him to drop the charges.

“He’s really sorry for what he did,” the relative said.

That plea didn’t faze Logan. The driver knew about the shotgun before driving to Logan’s location, according to the police investigation.

“No, I’m not going to drop it,” Logan said. “He tried to take my life.”

In court, defense attorneys dredged up Logan’s attempted-robbery conviction, which irritated him.

“We’re not here about that,” Logan recalled. “That’s the past.”

He thought they were trying to paint him as a “bad person and I deserved to be shot,” Logan said.

But Assistant Prosecutor Theresa Crayon said the questions are considered relevant to help juries evaluate a witness’s credibility. She dealt with the issue up-front at trial.

“Yes, he has a past,” she said. “But today you’re looking at a victim. Look at his demeanor. Did he report this right away? Does his testimony match the other evidence in the case?”

She called Logan, his friend, his friend’s mom and a crime scene investigator to testify. But she didn’t have the shotgun, a piece of evidence many jurors would have liked to have seen.

The public defender, who declined to talk to The Star, tried to drive doubt into jurors’ minds on cross-examinations by going after apparent inconsistencies in the victim and witness statements, such as the distance between the victim and the gunman, Crayon said.

The defense didn’t call any witnesses.

“It’s the state’s burden to prove the facts,” Crayon said.

The trial lasted three days — one for jury selection, one for presenting evidence and one for closing arguments.

On the final day, jurors left the courtroom to deliberate at 11:07 a.m. By 1:40 p.m. they had reached a verdict.

Guilty.

“That’s fast,” Crayon said. “And they ate lunch and picked a foreperson during that time.”

At sentencing, the public defender asked for probation. But the judge sentenced the gunman to 17 years. He had prior convictions.

The getaway driver pleaded guilty and received a five-year sentence. Logan plans to attend his parole hearing this year to oppose his early release.

Crayon lauded Logan’s dedication to the case.

“If more people would do what he did, maybe we’d have less” violent crime, she said.

Logan, who still suffers headaches and swelling to his head and arm, wishes the getaway driver would have received a harsher sentence but remains pleased otherwise with the outcome of his case.

“Only the community can change the community,” he said. “If everybody keeps holding their tongues, it’s not going to get any better.”

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