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Psychiatrist testifies about Delgado's mental state

Dr. Michael Maher testifies Thursday during Humberto Delgado’s first-degree murder trial in Tampa.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Dr. Michael Maher testifies Thursday during Humberto Delgado’s first-degree murder trial in Tampa.

TAMPA — Humberto Delgado remembers the shooting in fragments, like a bunch of disorganized snapshots. He was psychotic the night of Aug. 19, 2009, and insane.

Those are the conclusions made by forensic psychiatrist Michael Scott Maher, who in court Thursday tried to piece together those memories for jurors and bring them as close as they may ever get to being inside Delgado's mind the night he encountered Tampa police Cpl. Mike Roberts.

This is what he gleaned from Delgado: Homeless, he'd walked from Oldsmar to Tampa. He felt desperate and unsafe, like malevolent forces were coming down on him. His whole adult life, he had thought conspirators were out to kill him. The paranoia began when he was a cop. Then, a police officer approached him.

"He told me that the police officer searched through his backpack without asking permission," Maher said. "Mr. Delgado was afraid that the police officer would misunderstand and react to the fact that he had a laptop computer … and guns."

Delgado reacted with fear and paranoia, the psychiatrist said. "This was confirmation that the officer was after him. He was going to get him. He was going to kill him. He was going to do bad things to him. There was no way out of this situation."

Delgado ran. Roberts fired a Taser. Delgado said he felt the zap. "He's not very sure what he remembers next," the psychiatrist said. "He remembers, at some point, pointing at the police officer and hearing a bang."

Delgado was unable to recognize that his actions were wrong, the psychiatrist said. He didn't understand the consequences.

The first-degree murder trial is one with a fundamental question: Is this a case involving premeditated intent — or of a man incapable of forming one?

Any conviction short of first-degree murder would take the death penalty out of play.

Delgado's lawyers continued Thursday to call witnesses who chronicled his mental health troubles.

The jury heard from an Army psychiatrist, who met Delgado in 2005 when he carried a hammer, a pellet gun and a flashlight for self-defense and thought the rapper 50 Cent was out to kill him. Dr. William Leusink diagnosed him as bipolar with psychotic features.

His aunt and uncle also took the stand. Gloria and Zoilo Velasquez allowed him to stay in their Oldsmar home in 2009, but he paced the house at all hours, talking to himself, and their daughters told them they were afraid. They gave Delgado a time frame when he would have to move out, and Delgado left.

Prosecutors asked the aunt if she knew Delgado would end up on the streets. No, she said. He told her he was moving in with a friend. They asked the uncle if he had offered to drive Delgado to Tampa. Yes, he said. Delgado chose to walk.

After the shooting, Delgado called them and said he had shot a cop. He apologized, and said he was going to shoot himself.

They begged him not to.

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Psychiatrist testifies about Delgado's mental state 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 11:26pm]
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