TAMPA — The five white undercover Hillsborough detectives, two veterans and three trainees, hoped to lure drug dealers in the predominately black Progress Village community by sipping Miller Chill beers in their unmarked cars.
But the Sunday afternoon training session turned chaotic after the trainees noticed a guy with a gun, and the veterans decided to try and rid the neighborhood of the weapon.
Detective Christopher Baumann ended up with bullets in his chest and back. Authorities say they had been fired at close range by DeAndre Jamal Wallace, an 18-year-old with a record of prior felonies.
Wallace is standing trial this week on charges of attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and faces life in prison if convicted. His lawyer says deputies arrested the wrong guy but were too intoxicated to realize it.
"They're impaired and therefore their perception, their relaying of what happened to you all, is going to also be impaired," defense attorney Ronald Kurpiers II told jurors during his opening statement.
But several detectives who testified Tuesday said they only drank a few sips each. They described the beers as props, a way to convince dealers that they were regular folks looking for drugs.
"Because cops don't drink beer" on the job, Detective Mark Gilbertson said.
Baumann said Sheriff's Office protocol allows alcohol to be used during covert operations as long as the detectives have less than a 0.05 blood-alcohol level.
Baumann, a 10-year veteran, said he hadn't intended to make any arrests when he led a group of trainees to Progress Village on April 28, 2007. He was teaching three new undercover officers how to make "cold buys," or drug purchases on the street that aren't prearranged.
The trainees were paying $20 for some cocaine when they noticed a snarling, shirtless teen carrying a gun on 82nd Street. They alerted Baumann and Detective Tracey Balogh, who decided to drop their undercover roles and seek out the gun owner.
Baumann described in dramatic detail Tuesday putting on a green Sheriff's Office raid jacket, taking out his pistol and coming face to face with his suspect in a driveway.
As he tried to search Wallace's pockets for a gun, the teen reached for the detective's weapon. Punches flew, Baumann said. Wallace kept going after the detective's gun.
"I'll blow your & brains out all over the car if you do that again," Baumann yelled.
But Baumann gave Balogh his gun instead, worried about a shootout. He decided to go after Wallace with his hands.
"I punched him as hard as I could on his mouth," Baumann said.
Wallace's blood sprayed on a nearby car. Baumann said he sensed what was coming next.
He felt a bullet in his chest, then another in his back as he spun away.
He testified Tuesday that he had no doubt it was Wallace who fired the gun.
He yelled at his partner to shoot, and he saw Wallace flinch as if he had been hit.
Wallace took a bullet to the upper torso but still managed to flee; he surrendered about six hours later.
Baumann remembers watching him run down the street.
Colleen Jenkins can be reached
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