A judge on Monday slashed the bail set for a 21-year-old man charged a second time in the shooting of Fort Worth officer Matt Pearce.
State district Judge Ruben Gonzalez lowered the $2 million bail set on Ed Russell McIver Jr.’s attempted capital murder charge to $12,000.
Gonzalez set a $2,500 bail each on two other charges — possession of a controlled substance and theft of a firearm. Bail was previously set at $10,000 and $5,000, respectively.
McIver’s attorneys, including the recently appointed Bob Gill, objected to the reduced amount, saying McIver’s family could not immediately scrape together enough to post bail. They called bail conditions, which include requiring McIver to wear a GPS monitor, “unduly burdensome.”
A Tarrant County grand jury declined to indict McIver last week on charges of attempted capital murder and possession of a controlled substance.
That same day, the Tarrant County district attorney’s office refiled the two charges and said they planned to present the case to a different grand jury.
“It’s our belief and it’s our position that Mr. McIver should be indicted and should face charges,” prosecutor Kevin Rousseau said Monday.
McIver was arrested March 15 after his father, Ed R. McIver, tried to elude officers who were trying to arrest him on outstanding warrants. The elder McIver drove to a rural area in far west Fort Worth where he and his son jumped out of their SUV and ran into brush. During the foot chase, Pearce was wounded, and the elder McIver was fatally shot. The son was arrested a few hours later.
After the hearing, defense attorney Brian Walker said that he hoped his client would be released from jail within a few days. The case has been a strain on McIver, whose ultimate concern has been for the well-being of Pearce, he said.
“He obviously, like anybody, would like to go home, and it still remains to be seen whether or not he’s going to be able to afford to do so,” Walker said. “It’s really just been a roller coaster for him, and it’s been a tough situation. He’s faced trauma that he’ll never get over.”
Prosecutors did not contest the bail-reduction request but asked the judge to impose specific conditions.
“The judge entered a lot of the conditions that we had asked for,” Rousseau said. “We don’t have any complaints.”
The legal process so far
Last week, Walker filed a motion, asking Gonzalez to release McIver from the Tarrant County Jail. McIver was being “illegally confined and restrained,” he said.
Walker also requested an examining trial — a hearing at which Tarrant County prosecutors would have to convince a judge that they have enough evidence showing probable cause that McIver committed the offenses for which he is charged.
Monday’s hearing addressed only the bail issue after defense attorneys temporarily removed their request for an examining hearing.
The only witness called to testify was Fort Worth police officer Gordon Jones, who participated in the March 15 pursuit.
Jones, a member of the department’s special response team, said he and his sergeant were getting their radios programmed when they heard fugitive and patrol offices talking on the radio about trying to get a wanted felon stopped near South Hulen Street and Interstate 30.
Jones said he and his sergeant went to assist and that he eventually ended up trailing Pearce’s SUV as Pearce led the chase through a rural area in far west Fort Worth.
Dash-cam video from Jones’ patrol car was played during the hearing, showing dust flying as the McIvers’ SUV sped onto a private driveway before stopping not far from a residence.
Jones testified that while Pearce took after the driver, he pursued McIver Jr., who had jumped out of the SUV and run into the trees, carrying a shotgun and with a handgun tucked into his rear waistband. He said the manner in which McIver Jr. fled with the weapon was “very odd and troubling” and indicated to him “this could lead to a deadly force confrontation.”
‘He was trying to hide’
A short time later, Jones said, he heard gunshots.
Jones said he followed the sound and soon found the father fatally shot and Pearce with multiple gunshot wounds.
The search for McIver Jr. went on for hours, Jones said. He was eventually spotted hiding under trees and brush.
“He was lying very still. He had covered himself up with brush and leaves,” Jones testified. “It appeared, in my opinion, he was trying to hide and not be found.”
Within feet of McIver, Jones said, officers saw a loaded 20-gauge shotgun and small black handgun.
Under questioning by Gill, Jones acknowledged that it is not against the law to possess such a shotgun and that McIver was not driving during the pursuit with police.
He also testified that, although he did not know it at the time, only the driver was wanted on outstanding warrants, not the younger McIver.
Jones also acknowledged that when McIver began fleeing from him, the younger McIver had not committed any criminal offense.
Yet you decided to pursue him anyway, Gill asked?
“Yes, sir,” Jones replied.
‘They have nothing new’
Some defense attorneys have questioned the Tarrant County district attorney’s decision to refile the charges against McIver.
Fort Worth attorney Warren St. John called the move “highly unusual.” Usually when cases are presented to a second grand jury, some time has passed and further investigation has been conducted, he said. That the DA’s office refiled the case on the same day as the no-bill, he said, indicates that there is no additional incriminating evidence.
“They have nothing new,” St. John said. “They just didn’t like the outcome so they rebooted the computer.”
Attorney Jack Strickland, a former Tarrant County prosecutor, called it an “abuse of the grand jury process” for prosecutors to go around grand jury decisions simply because they do not agree.
“You don’t get to change the law just because you don’t like the outcome,” Strickland said. “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles.”
After Monday’s hearing, Walker told reporters that he suspects prosecutors presented their entire case to the first grand jury.
“I think that the district attorney's office is fully aware of all the evidence that has been made available to them and will ever be made available to them,” Walker said. “I think they have, at this point, everything that they need in their attempts to try to prosecute Mr. McIver. I don't believe it rises to the level of probable cause, and obviously a grand jury — citizens of Tarrant County — agrees with me on that issue.”