A jury Thursday acquitted a Birmingham police officer accused of shooting a man in the face at the Birmingham Airport.
Officer Manuel Richard Diaz, Jr., was found not guilty by the jury of 10 men and two women, who took only 20 minutes to reach the verdict.
Diaz was charged with shooting Mark Daniel Wittman. Police say Diaz told Wittman he could not park in the pickup lane at the terminal. When Wittman left and came back, police say Diaz fired his gun. Wittman was hit in the face; he was released from the hospital the next day.
During the trial, Whittman and Diaz both testified. Whittman told the court he went with a work associate to pick up a conference guest speaker at the airport. He said he dropped off his associate and parked in a spot near the curb.
A short time later, Whittman said a man approached his car and told him to move. Whittman admits he took off quickly, leaving tread marks. Whittman said he came back around a second time and was looking at a text message on his phone. When he looked up he saw the same man in front of his car with his hand out.
Whitman says he reacted quickly, veering left towards the man and then correcting to the right. He says he heard pops and when he looked up he realized he'd been shot.
Diaz testified the first time he stepped up to Whittman's car, Whittman was "angry" in his gestruing. Diaz said he backed off but, when Whittman came back around the second time, he stepped out in front of his vehicle and held out his hand.
Diaz said Whittman didn't stop his car as he approached so Diaz jumped out of the way. Diaz said he felt his life was threatened and fired shots.
When asked whether he regretted his actions that day, Diaz said he did not.
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