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Coeur d’Alene officer grabbed for Jonathan Renfro just as fatal shot was fired, according to murder trial testimony

Jonathan D. Renfro, 29, is escorted into the Kootenai County Courthouse in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2017. Renfro is charged with first-degree murder in connection to the shooting death of Coeur d'Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore on May 5, 2015. (Thomas Clouse` / SR)

Coeur d’Alene Police Sgt. Greg Moore reached out, and according to expert defense witnesses, grabbed either the wrist or lower arm of Jonathan D. Renfro just as the 29-year-old felon pulled the trigger of the stolen pistol hidden in his jacket pocket.

Kootenai County prosecutors used that moment as an example to show Renfro’s willingness to shoot and kill Moore on May 5, 2015, to avoid the arrest that would have sent Renfro back to prison.

But defense attorney Linda Payne on Tuesday called experts apparently to bolster her opening argument that Moore’s grabbing of Renfro’s arm altered a shot that would have been stopped by Moore’s bullet-proof vest. Instead, that contact may have caused the gun to shoot higher, striking Moore in the mouth.

Payne started and essentially completed the defense’s case on Tuesday. That defense did not include testimony from Renfro, who is facing the death penalty if the jury first finds him guilty of first-degree murder in connection with Moore’s death.

The long trial day started with First District Judge Lansing Haynes reminding Renfro that he has the right at any portion of the trial to testify on his own behalf.

“That decision is yours. You must decide what to do,” Haynes said. “Do you understand that?” Renfro replied: “Yes sir.”

Haynes also booted a juror who had an encounter over the weekend at a retail store with a bailiff. The juror made some sort of comment about the trial and the attorneys could not agree to allow him to remain.

Haynes told the 14 remaining jurors to bring bags because the could be sequestered, or kept together overnight, as early as Wednesday night if attorneys complete testimony and closing arguments.

After calling several witnesses, including one who did not show, Payne called Jason Fries, the CEO of 3D-Forensic. Fries broke down the video from the camera Moore was wearing, tested an identical camera and conducted tests with the same kind of black jacket that Renfro wore during the shooting.

“We tried to reverse engineer to get the general placement of the two people involved,” Fries said. “We could never see a gun, which was unusual. That surprised us.”

Fries, and bio-mechanics engineer Gary Yamaguchi, both testified that the shot occurred between frames of the video. His testing showed that he believed Moore was anywhere from 17 to 21 inches away from the gun when it was fired from Renfro’s pocket.

Fries pointed out two “ghost marks,” which he believed showed the zipper of Renfro’s coat caused by a quick upward motion, possibly when he lifted the gun just prior to shooting Moore.

“We see the officer’s hand had impacted the jacket. It looks like the forearm or the wrist,” Fries said. “In my opinion, the hand contacted just before the shot was fired. At no point in time did we see Mr. Renfro stop moving. He never stopped long enough to aim.”

But Deputy Kootenai County Prosecutor David Robins challenged Fries, asking whether he knew that the FBI teaches agents not to aim if they are within 9 feet of a suspect.

“I’ll take your word for it,” Fries said.

“Is it possible Sgt. Moore did not have contact with him before the shot?” Robins asked. Fries replied: “Again, under the concept that anything is possible, sure.”

Robins then asked Fries if Renfro was the person who shot Sgt. Moore. “Yes,” Fries replied. “I have no idea what Sgt. Moore did or did not see.”

The second expert, Yamaguchi, said he studies how human bodies move in relation to forces placed against them. As for the interaction of Moore with Renfro, he said: “Things didn’t make sense until I employed my skills as an archery coach.”

He explained that the angle of Moore’s wrist and hand showed that he was grabbing Renfro’s jacket or arm just before the shot was fired.

“I believe Officer Moore’s left hand made contact with Mr. Renfro prior to the shot being fired … on the underside of the arm, or the jacket or the gun in the pocket.”

Robins pointed out that if Renfro was interested in fleeing, he could have turned and sprinted away from Moore. “After Sgt. Moore was shot, did you see any pictures of Mr. Renfro providing aid?” “No,” Yamaguchi replied.

Robins asked if Yamaguchi had an opinion as to whether Renfro aimed the pistol before it shot Moore. “I don’t see how he could have taken a steady aim,” Yamaguchi replied.

Haynes asked the attorneys to return at 1:15 p.m. Wednesday when the defense is expected to rest its case. Robins could call a rebuttal witness before closing arguments but Haynes did not indicate when he expects those to occur.