LUDINGTON, Mich. (WOOD) — A jury learned Wednesday what happened just after a Michigan State Police trooper was shot, as witnesses responded finding Trooper Paul Butterfield II awake and bleeding.
Opening statements were made and witness testimony began Wednesday in the murder trial of 20-year-old Eric Knysz, who is accused of shooting and killing Butterfield during what started as a routine traffic stop on Sept. 9, 2013 in rural Mason County, east of Ludington.
Inside woodtv.com: Photos of the murder trial of Eric Knysz
Passerby Connie Helton testified first Wednesday. She was the first person on the scene and said she could see a lot of blood around Butterfield when she found him lying in the road.
“He had been shot in the head on the right side above his eye,” Helton testified, describing the trooper’s injuries.
Helton testified Wednesday that Butterfield was still conscious when she found him lying face-down with his arms underneath his chest.
“He did pick up his head and he was patting his chest,” she said.
Butterfield’s father Paul Butterfield, Sr., who along with many of the trooper’s loved ones wore a pin honoring his son, thanked Helton as she left the courtroom.
Husband and wife Charles and Shannon Comstock also stopped at the scene where Butterfield was shot.
Butterfield was “in very bad shape,” Charles Comstock testified.
“His hat was lying in the road with a hole in it,” he said.
He said he tried to “befriend this man that I never met, but so desperately wanted to help.” He said he wanted to show Butterfield that “he wasn’t alone.”
After 911 dispatcher Josh McGahan took the stand, recordings of the calls to 911 were played for the jury.
“Hello. We have an officer down. He’s bleeding severely from the head,” a male caller said.
“He’s in so much pain,” said a female caller. Then, to Butterfield, she said, “They’re on their way, sir. They’re on their way.”
Paul Butterfield, Sr. hung his head as the 911 calls were played.
Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole, who also responded to the scene, testified that he sat with Butterfield in an ambulance as they waited for a medical helicopter to arrive.
“His head was covered in bandages and I couldn’t see his face,” Cole said. “”I just kept saying, “Paul, keep breathing. Keep fighting.'”
Butterfield, 43, died later that night during emergency surgery.
Mason County Chief Deputy Steve Hansen took the stand to testify in the afternoon. He was among the first responders to the scene.
Hansen showed the jury the hat that police say Butterfield was wearing when he was shot. A hole could be seen in the top of it, presumably from where the bullet exited.
Defense attorney David Glancy challenged inconsistencies in Hansen’s report. In his written report, he testified that he secured Butterfield’s gun belt after the shooting. During testimony in court Wednesday, he said another first responder — Deputy Brandon Romero — secured it.
But Prosecutor Paul Spaniola pointed out that Butterfield, who had only been on duty about 20 minutes when the shooting happened, never drew his gun.
More officers also testified late Wednesday afternoon before the judge ended proceedings for the day.
Police said Eric Knysz confessed to the shooting not long after it occurred. However, he pleaded not guilty, and a jury was seated for the trial, which is expected to last nine days, on Tuesday in Mason County Circuit Court.
Eric Knysz’s wife Sarah Knysz — who was pregnant at the time of the shooting — told police she was with her husband when he shot Buttefield. During her own court proceedings, she said Butterfield did not even had time to finish greeting them before her husband opened fire.
Sarah Knsyz pleaded guilty in November to being an accessory after the fact and auto theft for her role in the crime, and will serve at least two years in prison. As part of her plea agreement, she agreed to testify against her husband during his trial.
Eric Knysz has a ring tattoo on his left ring finger.
His mother Tami Spofford is also scheduled to go to trial in May in the case for allegedly helping the young couple to get away from police after the shooting. Because she said she would plead the Fifth Amendment if called on to testify against her son — saying it could incriminate her in her own case — a judge Tuesday excused her from testifying.