Trial begins for man accused of shooting Miami-Dade officer outside Little Haiti church

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Despite being picked out of a photo lineup, Willie Barney insists he was not the one who shot Miami-Dade Officer Wislyn Joseph point-blank in the chest during an armed robbery.

“You see Willie right there,” attorney Robert Barrar told jurors Wednesday. “He was home.”

Barney offered his alibi Wednesday in the opening day of his trial. The crux of the defense: Joseph, who miraculously survived the September shooting, misidentified Barney as a “light-skinned or light complexioned” man.

The defense, however, did not mention the DNA match — swabbed off the officer’s wrist when the armed robber snatched his gold bracelet — pinpointing Barney as the gunman who attacked Joseph outside the Union Christian Bible Church in Little Haiti in September.

“He didn’t go there to pray. He didn’t go there armed with a Bible,” prosecutor Dawn Kulick told jurors. “He went there armed with a .45-caliber weapon.”

Barney, 20, is charged with attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery. He faces life in prison if convicted.

Also charged with Barney: Travares Santiago and Dedrick Brown, who will go to trial later.

Police say the trio embarked on a vicious two-county robbery spree that also included the murder of a man in Miami Gardens.

Joseph, a devout detective with Miami-Dade’s Special Victims bureau, had gone to the church to help install an awning for an upcoming service for a pastor who had passed away.

The detective on Wednesday identified Barney as the chief gunman who held him up, snatched his bracelet and stole his two chains before shooting him in the chest.

After the robbers escaped, Joseph’s father emerged from the church. Joseph didn’t realize he had been hit — until he realized his father had frozen, staring at the blood spurting from his chest.

The bullet — “By the grace of God,” Kulick said — missed every vital organ, bone and exited his back. With spiritual calm, Joseph instructed his father to put pressure on the wound while the officer called 911 on his father’s phone.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Joseph, who radioed to dispatch a description of the robbers and their car.

A Miami-Dade patrol officer arrived within a few minutes and rushed Joseph to the hospital — the detectives refused to sit in the back “where the prisoners sit,” he said.

Within hours, police pulled over three men — all identified through a photo lineup by Joseph. The gun used to shoot Joseph was also found in their maroon Pontiac, Kulick told jurors.

Barrar, the defense attorney, acknowledged that Barney was in the car but insisted he was at home during the shooting. The defendant’s relatives are expected to testify that Barney was home.

The trial continues Thursday in the courtroom of Circuit Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat.

Read more Afternoon Update stories from the Miami Herald

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