A jury found a Monroe man guilty of two counts of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer stemming from a September 2017 shooting that wounded an Amherst County Sheriff’s deputy.
Trevor Dawson Ewers, who maintained his innocence, also was found guilty Friday of aggravated malicious wounding of an officer and two counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony. The jury recommended Ewers be sentenced to 103 years on the combined charges at a later date.
The jury reached its verdicts near the conclusion of a two-day jury trial in Amherst Circuit Court that included emotional testimony from the two officers directly involved in the shooting and Ewers. The 24-year-old was arrested after a routine traffic stop that turned into catastrophe the night of Sept. 22, 2017, Amherst Commonwealth’s Attorney Lyle Carver said.
Ewers was a backseat passenger in a vehicle stopped at the Monroe Post Office on U.S. 29 Business when Amherst Sheriff’s Investigator Jason Meador, who at the time was a lieutenant, had him get out in an attempt to search him for weapons. Carver said Ewers didn’t show his hands, reached into his pocket to get a gun and pointed it at Amherst Sheriff’s deputy Erin Karajankovich, who let out a “chilling” scream.
“We’re well past routine at this point,” Carver said of the frantic scene unfolding. “It’s seconds of life- threatening chaos.”
Meador and Ewers went to the ground as three shots were fired from the defendant’s .25-caliber weapon and Karajankovich shot Ewers once in the shoulder, according to prosecutors. A bullet entered Meador’s head over his ear and exited the back of the head and did not penetrate the skull, Carver said.
The combined efforts of four officers on scene saved lives and Ewers stopped shooting because his gun jammed and he was subdued and wounded, Carver said.
“He entirely introduced the escalation,” Carver said of Ewers. “He made the decision to try to kill at least two of our law enforcement officers that night. ... The defendant did the unthinkable.”
Matthew Pack, Ewers’ attorney, urged jurors to closely study body camera footage of the incident and argued his client was heavily intoxicated and had no intent to harm or kill anyone. The shooting was unintentional as Ewers was trying to hand the gun over to Karajankovich, who was conducting the traffic stop, Pack said.
“What happened here is the officers overreacted and these charges are inflated,” Pack told jurors.
Body camera footage played in court showed Meador grab Ewers as he exited the vehicle and while attempting to search him the defendant suddenly turned and the two quickly fell to the ground as shots were heard. The angle of the camera looking upward with Ewers out of the frame showed smoke from gunfire and Karajankovich quickly run over and shoot downward.
Meador testified Ewers stumbled out of the vehicle and as he went to search him, a routine procedure, he saw Ewers point this gun at Karajankovich. “I tried to control the firearm and put him on the ground,” Meador testified. “He said multiple times ‘I’m not going back.’”
Meador testified he didn’t feel the wound but felt blood come down his face and realized he had been struck. He suffered a ruptured eardrum, has some hearing loss and still has dizziness, scars and a constant ringing in his ear from the event, he testified.
Karajankovich broke down in tears several times recalling the incident on the stand, testifying she ran out of the way when she saw the gun pointed at her. The weapon posed an immediate threat so she immediately rushed toward the struggle, she testified.
“All I could see was blood on both people so I had to fire my service revolver,” she testified.
Pack said the “horrible, horrible” incident happened so fast and Ewers, who was intoxicated with a blood alcohol content of .25, three times the legal limit to drive a vehicle, was attempting to hand over his weapon in what was a heightened situation in which the officer can’t be blamed. “There’s no premeditation to kill anyone, especially law enforcement,” Pack said, adding: “It’s our contention this was chaos.”
Pack during closing arguments also told jurors he wasn’t so sure it was Ewers who wounded Meador. Meador shook his head in disagreement and Karajankovich, appearing upset, immediately left the courtroom.
Carver said shortly after there was “no evidence, none” presented in the case Karajankovich was the one who shot her supervising officer. The sole blame is on Ewers, he said.
Amherst town police officer Dante Robinson, who was on the scene, testified he rushed over to wrestle the gun away from Ewers after the shots were fired. “He had a death grip on it,” Robinson testified. “It was very hard to get it out of his hand.”
Ewers testified he had no memory of the shooting. He recalled drinking about a half liter of vodka starting at about 8 p.m., smoking marijuana at about 3 p.m. and doing about a half gram of cocaine at about 5 p.m. He also said he took five to six doses of Klonopin throughout the day, for which he had a prescription.
He testified he was carrying a gun that day because he didn’t want his parents to find it while he was away. Ewers said he tried to hand the gun over during the stop, and the next thing he remembered was being shot, then waking up in the hospital.
When asked by Pack if he intended to harm anyone, he said, “No, sir.”
“That’s not who I am and it’s not in my character,” Ewers said.
Ewers admitted to having a burglary adjudication from when he was a minor. He said he didn’t remember the specific line of questioning during the traffic stop, and when asked about statements that he “didn’t want to go back,” he said he meant going back to jail for illegally possessing a firearm.
Carver told jurors Ewers had clear motive to shoot at the officers. “He was desperately trying to shoot his way to freedom,” Carver said.
The incident marked the first time in memory the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office had an officer shot, according to Sheriff E.W. Viar. A state police investigation found no wrongdoing by the officers. Viar in 2018 honored the officers on scene with medals and certificates for their actions in the line of duty.
Meador’s wife and Karajankovich testified about the trauma the event has had on their lives. Karajakovich said she has trouble sleeping, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues and believed she was going to die that night.
Ewers’ grandmother testified she never has seen him act violently and described him as “mild mannered” and easily influenced by peer pressure. She testified he could have died and the incident shocked the family.
Karajankovich testified she relives the incident over and over in her mind and the children at school were she serves as a resource officer cheer her up.
“You don’t think it’s actually going to happen to you,” she said of training for such situations. “It has definitely changed me as a person.”
The News & Advance reporter Rachel Mahoney contributed.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.
Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.