WAKEFIELD — Kevin W. Brown had already been pronounced dead at about the time Mandall Tripp was signing a statement for the Westerly police admitting that he had “swung a knife” at Brown during an altercation and may have injured him.
The incident occurred on the day of Superstorm Sandy, when Brown, 37, of South Kingstown, vehemently refused to leave Tripp’s Marriott Avenue home in Westerly.
Detective Michael Lamb, a 16-year veteran of the Westerly police force, was the sole witness Tuesday on the sixth day of testimony in Tripp’s manslaughter trial in Washington County Superior Court. The 15 people empaneled for the jury watched Tripp’s recorded interview with the detective after he was brought to the Westerly police station.
In his statement to Lamb, Tripp said that Brown forced his way into the home, a duplex, on Oct. 29, 2012, and was halfway up the stairs before he could get his jeans on and make his way down from a bedroom. Tripp said the conversation turned into more like a confrontation when he asked Brown to leave and he refused.
Tripp asked several times about the condition of Brown, and Lamb said he didn’t know. Tripp said he never intended to harm Brown. He said he told Brown, who continued to talk about his uncle and owing money, that he had a knife in his pocket. Brown told him “‘Stab me, stab me,’” Tripp said.
“I wasn’t trying to stab him or nothing,” said Tripp. Lamb left the room several times during the lenghty recorded interview. Tripp told the detective that Brown took a swing at him. He said he “ducked” as Brown swung and “he grazed me.”
Tripp said he didn’t want to hurt Brown and didn’t want the children in the house to see anything. “I’m not that type of guy,” he said. He acknowledged he sliced Brown’s jacket, but didn’t think he harmed him. He said Brown swung at him once and that he swung once at Brown.
“I didn’t try to hurt him, stab him, kill him, nothing,” Tripp told Lamb. He said he had no idea Brown was hurt. He said that after the altercation Brown left in his car and that he asked his girlfriend, Darlene Hazard, to go to the police station to file a complaint.
Meanwhile, Brown crashed his car into bushes and rested against a tree just a minute away on West Street and was receiving medical care as Tripp’s son, Jahmel Ramhamita, and Hazard and her son, Allen, were headed to the police station, according to trial testimony.
They stopped at the crash and Darlene told the police that the man driving the car had just broken into their home.
Brown was taken out of the car and was given CPR as he was not breathing after the crash. Two bottles of prescription drugs were found in the car. Tripp’s attorney, William Murphy, asked Lamb if they considered that Brown may have crashed because of an overdose. Lamb said paramedics and officers consider everything.
Prosecutor Mark Trovato asked Lamb if Tripp would have been allowed to leave had there been no manslaughter charges against him. Lamb said police discovered marijuana in his pocket and he would have still been arrested on that charge.
When left alone in the interview room, Tripp pulled his tank top up over his head, rested his head on the table and repeatedly questioned his impending fate.
Tripp was initially charged with second-degree murder. The charge was downgraded to manslaughter after Judge Melanie Wilk Thunberg, who is hearing the case, ruled that the circumstances did not rise to the level of a second-degree murder charge. In Rhode Island, a manslaughter conviction carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Tripp was released on bail.
Murphy asked Lamb about Brown’s criminal background, including arrests, and Lamb said he was aware of two, one for a suspended license and one for disorderly conduct. He asked Lamb if he was aware of “Brown’s reputation for violence.”
Lamb replied that he was not. Murphy asked if he knew that Brown had previously been arrested and convicted of assaults. Lamb said he was not.
The trial was to continue today with Murphy’s cross-examination of Lamb.