Bexar County prosecutor Tamara Strauch used defendant Otis Tyrone McKane’s own words in her opening statement to jurors on the first day of his capital murder trial.
McKane is charged in the 2016 shooting death of San Antonio police Detective Benjamin Marconi, a 20-year veteran of the department who was shot twice while writing a traffic ticket in the front seat of his patrol vehicle outside police headquarters.
“He says, ‘I’m not trying to prove a point. I’m just mad. I took it out on the first person I’ve seen because I had nothing to live for. And I wanted to f— somebody’s life up,'” Strauch said, repeating to jurors comments McKane made to detectives after he was arrested. “He goes on to say, ‘I wanted to make the police station feel the burn that I felt in my heart.'”
She shared one more statement of McKane’s with jurors: “It felt good to shoot him.”
McKane pleaded not guilty Monday before Judge Ron Rangel in the 379th District Court. McKane’s defense team, Raymond Fuchs, Joel Perez, and Daniel De La Garza, opted to defer their opening statement.
This is the first death penalty case in Bexar County in more than five years. It was originally set to take place last year, but court proceedings were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. KSAT-TV will continue to livestream each day of the trial, which is expected to last two weeks.
Strauch gave the jury a preview of the evidence and testimony they’ll hear throughout the trial, from the eyewitness who identified McKane as the killer, to doctors who attempted to save Marconi’s life.
The prosecution’s first witness, SAPD special projects manager Aric Jimenez, walked the jury through surveillance footage from Nov. 20, 2016, the day Marconi was shot.
The footage showed a man prosecutors say is McKane park a black Mitsubishi sedan at a nearby parking lot and enter police headquarters before 8 a.m. Marathon runners pass by the building as the man enters and exits.
McKane said he wanted to “file a report” regarding the visitation rights for his son, testified officer Kevin Wilkinson on Monday. But before Wilkinson could get an officer to take McKane’s statement, McKane said “never mind” and walked out.
The brief encounter led Wilkinson to track McKane with exterior cameras until he got back into his car.
“I thought it was a little unusual for him to come in that early in the morning to want to make a report and then just walk out,” said Wilkinson.
Prosecutors say McKane returned hours later, this time pulling his car behind Marconi’s vehicle as he was engaged in a routine traffic stop near the building’s parking lot entrance. In the video, a woman pushes a child in a stroller by the patrol vehicle just moments before the black sedan arrives. In the video, a man exits the vehicle and runs up to Marconi’s open door. Prosecutors say McKane shot Macroni twice before running back to his vehicle.
The black sedan then plows through two parking lot entrance/exit arms before disappearing from view on West Nueva Street.
Later, the jury was shown a video taken from the dashboard of Marconi’s vehicle. Jurors will watch another video, taken from the back seat, on Tuesday.
Several bystanders and police officers rushed to Marconi, slumped over in his seat, Strauch said, including the driver that Marconi originally pulled over. Several called 911 and administered assistance before EMS arrived.
He was pronounced dead at 12:22 p.m. at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
The ensuing citywide manhunt involved local and state law enforcement. McKane was arrested without incident the following day. He was in a different vehicle with his wife, identified in court as Christian Fields, whom he married the day after the shooting occurred.
After his arrest, McKane told reporters he didn’t know Marconi.
“I’ve been through several custody battles and I was upset at the situation I was in and lashed out at somebody that didn’t deserve it,” he said at the time.
In a jailhouse interview with KSAT in December 2016, McKane said his comments were “misconstrued.” He refused to answer questions about the shooting but repeated his earlier assertion that he was upset because of a custody battle involving his son. He also claimed his identity has been stolen and that an impersonator has led to him being falsely accused of various crimes.
After his arrest, Strauch said McKane told a mental health counselor he knew what he did was wrong, but he “felt justified.”
On Monday, the prosecutor offered jurors a roadmap to conviction.
“After all the evidence has come in and you’ve heard it,” Strauch told the jury, “you will know by this defendant’s actions and his words that he committed the capital murder of San Antonio Police Department detective Benjamin Marconi, coming by shooting him at close range twice in the head.”