Walking The ‘Chi-weiner’ And Witnessing A Crime; Woman Recalls Shooting
On a sunny Sunday afternoon last August, north Casper resident Vicki James leashed her "chi-weiner" dog and took a walk in Riverside Park.
James liked the neighborhood, but remained alert for problems because of some of the drug deals she's seen happen, she told jurors and Natrona County District Court Judge Daniel Forgey on Tuesday.
She told her story from the witness box in the courtroom, where Zechariah Jones is on trial this week on one count of attempted second-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault. Prosecutors also want Jones to be convicted of being a habitual criminal for three prior felonies.
Earlier Tuesday, victim Zachary Albrecht told his side of being shot, at first not feeling anything but then lifting his shirt and finding a bullet hole.
During the testimonies, Jones sat quietly next to his public defender Kerri Johnson.
On Aug. 24, James didn't know anything about Jones's criminal past or Albrecht, the man he was about to shoot at point-blank range.
She was about to learn fast.
During questioning by Assistant District Attorney Mike Schafer, James said she was about to head home with her "chi-weiner" after their walk, and saw an unfamiliar blue car enter Riverview's parking lot at M and North Lincoln streets.
James walked past it, noticed someone inside, but avoided eye contact, James said.
Meanwhile a red vehicle traveled north on North Lincoln, hung a left on M Street, and stopped.
A man, a very agitated man identified as Zachary Albrecht, got out and began walking by her mumbling something that ended with the word "off" as he stormed toward the blue car.
To show Albrecht's agitation, she imitated his walk by hunching over slightly and thrusting her left shoulder then her right shoulder that matched his steps.
As Albrecht approached the car, he man inside, identified as Jones, got out.
By then, James had reached North Lincoln Street and turned around to watch the escalating drama. Her "chi-weiner" remained oblivious and just sniffed the grass and a telephone pole, she added.
As Albrecht approached the blue car, Jones got out. James stood in the witness box and imitated Jones next action by swinging up her arm, holding an imaginary pistol, and pulling the imaginary trigger.
"It was basically 'pop,'" she said.
Albrecht bent over in pain, turned around and began walking toward her. Jones got back in his car, drove around the parking lot toward the exit, she said. "I could have been shot myself."
James fumbled with her smart phone, tried to get the camera to work but wasn't fast enough, she said. "I freaked out because he (Jones) is looking right at me."
So she did the next best thing by memorizing his license plate, she said. "86251, 86251, 86251."
She saw Jones quickly look right and left, then speed away.
She dialed 911.
Schafer played the 911 call for the jurors.
As the recording began, James continued chanting "86251, 86251" even after the dispatcher answered.
In the confusion of the call, James misidentified the intersecting street as K Street, tried to explain the kind of car Jones was driving, and crouched low to the ground because she was afraid Jones may return -- all the while clutching her "chi-weiner."
Albrecht is heard yelling "Zechariah Jones shot me" in the background.
The dispatcher asked James about Albrecht's condition. James responded that he was shot but the bullet didn't exit his body, adding, "he's not having difficulty breathing, but he's hurting."
Law enforcement soon arrived, she said
Under cross-examination by Johnson, James filled in some details about the shooting and aftermath, adding she went into a "momentary freeze" after seeing Albrecht walk toward her.
"I picked up my dog, looked at him, and said, "'whoa.'"
The trial resumes Wednesday.
Kevin Koile contributed to this story.