Shot point blank in the chest by an armed robber behind his Little Haiti church, Miami-Dade Police Officer Wislyn Joseph reacted with spiritual calm.
“Immediately, after I had been shot, I began to hum a gospel song,” Joseph told a judge Monday as his accused assailant was to began trial, seven months after the attack.
When his father appeared, Joseph implored him to call 911. His dad froze. So Joseph grabbed his father’s cell, instructed the man to apply pressure to the wound, and the off-duty officer calmly dialed 911 to broadcast a description of the three men who robbed him.
Detectives soon 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.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
That was in September. On Monday, Joseph took the stand in court for the first time as accused shooter Willie Barney’s lawyer asked a judge to rule the traffic stop illegal.
Judge Jorge Rodriguez-Chomat declined. So jury selection began Monday afternoon, with testimony expected to begin Tuesday.
Barney, 19, pressed on to trial despite last week’s revelation of a damning piece of evidence: Barney’s DNA was found on Joseph’s wrist and hand, which the suspect apparently brushed while snatching a bracelet from the off-duty officer.
Charged with armed robbery and attempted murder; Barney faces life in prison if convicted.
Also charged with Barney: Travares Santiago and Dedrick Brown, who will go to trial later. Brown’s DNA was also found on Joseph.
Investigators believed the trio embarked on a vicious robbery spree that includes the robbery of a Miami Shores man mowing his lawn. A neighbor provided police a partial license plate number of the gang’s Pontiac.
Also, Miami Gardens police say, the men robbed Barrington Kerr, 55, and another man in the 300 block of Northwest 190th Street. The men snatched Kerr’s chain, then shot him dead.
The men are also accused of two other robberies.
Their crime spree, investigators say, began just days after Barney, 20, was released from state prison in July where he had served two years for an armed robbery.
As for Joseph, he was helping set an awning at the Union Christian Bible church, 6701 NW Seventh Ave., where his family worships.
Afterward, the investigator for Miami-Dade’s Special Victims bureau was rinsing off his truck when the three men appeared, Barney in front, wielding a .45-caliber pistol, the other two with their hands at their waists as if they too were armed, Joseph said..
“Don’t move. Give me everything,” Barney told him, according to Joseph.
The gun-wielding youth apparently though Joseph, who was not in uniform, was taking too long. So he yanked the Gucci bracelet off his wrist.
“Then he reached in and grabbed my gold chain. My grandmother, on her death bed, had left it for me,” Joseph said.
Then Barney unloaded one round into Joseph’s chest. But the officer twisted at the last second and the bullet miraculously missed every vital organ.
“He is very, very lucky and blessed to be alive,” Miami-Dade Detective Juan Segovia, the lead homicide investigator, told the judge.