By A.J. ALGIER
Sun Staff Writer
WAKEFIELD — Kevin P. Brown, 37, was not breathing when rescue personnel pulled him from his car, which had crashed into a tree on the day of Superstorm Sandy, a police detective testified Monday in the manslaughter trial of Mandall W. Tripp of Westerly, who is accused of stabbing Brown.
“He had no pulse and he was not breathing,” said the detective, Steven Johnson, who is also a Westerly emergency medical technician.
Fifteen jurors and alternates took notes as the trial, packed with relatives of Brown, of South Kingstown, and Tripp, 42, proceeded before Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg in Washington County Superior Court.
Witnesses have said that Brown went to the home where Tripp lived with his longtime girlfriend at 11A Marriott Ave., Westerly, and entered the apartment during the storm on Oct. 29, 2012. The two men got into an altercation, whch one witness described as a “tousling” and others as “arguing with pushing.” The police said it ended with Tripp stabbing Brown in the chest with a 3½-inch knife. Medical officials reported that the blade went into Brown’s heart.
The police reported that Brown’s airbag deployed when his card crashed on West Street, less than a half-mile from the house, but EMTs said there appeared to be no other injuries from the crash.
Johnson said that he and a second person began CPR immediately. Later he related that Brown started breathing for a short period of time while in the ambulance, sitting up and moving his arms. Asked whether Brown was flailing his arms, and if he was agitated, he said no. Johnson said Brown never regained consciousness after that point.
Police witnesses have said that Tripp, when being questioned at the Westerly Police Station later in the day, admitted that he and Brown had gotten into an altercation after Brown forced his way into the house and yelled for him. Tripp said “an intoxicated” Brown talked about him “owing money to his uncle, or something about family.”
Tripp also told police during questioning that the argument escalated and he kept on yelling for Brown to leave and at one point pushed the 225-pound man and managed to get him out the door, only to have him push through an already broken storm door and “start swinging at me.”
The assertion that Brown took an initial swing at Tripp with his fist has been disputed. Tripp said he warned Brown that he had a knife and would use it and in a videotaped interview with police at the station he said that Brown swung at him with his fist and he countered and swung at him with the knife. Thus far defense witnesses have not corroborated Tripp’s assertion that he told Brown he had a knife. Family members who have testified said they did not hear him say that he had a knife.
In the police interview, Tripp initially said he didn’t know whether he had stabbed Brown, but later said he said he thought he did. Tripp said he was never aware during questioning that Brown had died, but those who interviewed Triff have said they were not aware of Brown’s death until the interview was completed.
Brown has been portrayed by Tripp’s attorney, William Murphy, a former Rhode Island House speaker, as imposing, weighing about 50 pounds more than Tripp. The meeting of the two, said Murphy, resulted first in a shoving match, with the situation intensifying as Brown refused to leave.
Testimony regarding Brown’s previous drug and alcohol use and toxicology reports from The Westerly Hospital and from the Rhode Island medical examiner’s office show that Brown had an elevated blood alcohol content at the time he was admitted to the hospital and at the time of his autopsy. Authorities also said he showed signs of having had cocaine and the drug citalopram, an antidepressant, in his system.
Johnson was asked how he had recognized Brown at the site of the crash. He said he had some interaction with him through arrests. Murphy continued the questioning Johnson as to what kind of arrests that he knew Brown had, and Johnson said a disorderly conduct and a suspended license charge. Testimony was to continue for a sixth day today with Detective Michael Lamb on the witness stand.