Investigator calls Oates "a liar" in recording played on trial day two

rlurye@islandpacket.comJune 18, 2014 

Preston Oates slammed the table hard with his fist as he again told a Sheriff's Office captain about the night he shot and killed Carlos Olivera.

In an audio recording played in court Wednesday, the former tow-truck driver told Beaufort County Sheriff's Office Capt. Robert Bromage what he remembered about the Christmas Eve 2010 shooting. He said he felt he was "walking out to his own execution" as he leapt from the cab of his truck and opened fire.

Bromage did not believe him.

"I'll call you a liar right now," he could be heard telling the then 27-year-old Oates.

Bromage had walked Oates through the incident that left Olivera, 34, dead in front of his brother's Bluffton home after a dispute over a booted minivan.

But Oates' explanation-- that he had no choice but to defend himself after Olivera pulled a gun -- left unanswered questions, Bromage can be heard saying.

Why did Oates retreat to his truck cab in fear of the Olivera brothers but not call law enforcement ?

Why didn't he simply drive away?

In the recording, Bromage notes Oates' repeated references to past attacks -- he was stabbed with a kitchen knife in 2008 while towing a car from the Shady Glen Mobile Home Park, and, on another occasion, robbed at gunpoint in Istanbul.

"This threat was allowed to fester," Bromage said. "This can be construed as, 'I'm tired of this (expletive) happening, I'm gonna take care of this myself this time."

The interview continued to be contentious.

Bromage, who served as a U.S. Army Ranger, can be heard snapping at Oates when he falsely insinuates he enlisted in the Army.

He also asked Oates why he told a reporter the Christmas Eve shooting was a suicide.

Oates said his grandfather recently took his own life.

"(Olivera) made his choices, just like my grandfather," Oates can be heard saying, close to tears.

Defense attorney Jared Newman later cross-examined Bromage, who said he continues to doubt Oates' truthfulness based on his "delusions of military training" and "sensational" statements.

"Yeah, (Oates) says some things that make him look like a left-handed monkey wrench," Newman told Bromage. "But that's not what he's on trial for."

Oates' statements, on both the audio tape and in earlier interviews with investigators, led a forensic psychiatrist to agree with a Medical University of South Carolina report that diagnosed Oates with narcissistic personality disorder.

The psychiatrist -- Dr. Amanda Salas -- was expected to testify for the state Wednesday that those who suffer from the disorder have a tendency to escalate conflict rather than defuse it.

Judge Brooks Goldsmith ruled she would not testify.

The trial, in which Oates faces charges of murder and possession of a weapon in the commission of a violent crime, continues today.

'WE'RE DONE'

In the interview with Bromage, Oates maintains he was forced to act after Olivera, standing on the step of the tow truck cab, pulled a .40-caliber Glock 22 handgun from his waistband and pointed it at his face.

Olivera's brother, Nelson, had tried but failed to unlock the boot on Carlos' Toyota minivan using keys and a wrench he grabbed from the truck cab, Oates told Bromage.

Carlos Olivera opened Oates' door, stepped back and told him, 'We're done," Oates says in the recording. Oates remembers his last thought was, "I'm gonna die."

"And then I saw my muzzle flash."

Oates said he kept firing until he heard Olivera's gun hit the pavement.

He insisted Olivera had not tried to run and said he couldn't explain why four of the shots he fired hit Olivera in the back.

A forensic pathologist with the Medical University of South Carolina testified Wednesday that the exit wound of one of those shots was "shored." That means the bullet, which damaged Olivera's heart and spinal cord, was fired while Olivera was laying on a hard surface, likely the ground, Ellen Riemer said.

"I think Mr. Oates absolutely walked up to Mr. Olivera's prone body and fired a shot into his back," 14th Circuit Deputy Solicitor Sean Thornton said.

Three other bullets entered Olivera's back, said Riemer, who did not know what order the shots were fired.

Two exited his arm and stomach, while the third remained lodged in his sternum.

A fifth bullet pierced Olivera's arm from behind.

A sixth entered his stomach from the side and exited a few inches away.

'AN ISSUE FOR THE JURY'

Riemer was the last witness called Wednesday before the state and defense rested their cases.

Several hours of recorded interviews played in court Tuesday and Wednesday will speak for Oates, who told Judge Goldsmith he will not take the stand on the third and final day of his trial today.

The state and defense will present closing arguments, but not before they resolve a question Thornton raised after the jury was excused.

Thornton asked Goldsmith to once again allow the jury a choice of convicting Oates of murder or voluntary manslaughter.

Newman argued the state had its chance to try Oates for the lesser offense but chose to drop it Monday in favor of the murder charge.

Goldsmith did not rule on the request, but said both sides should research similar cases before court resumes this morning.

The request followed a motion by Newman to dismiss the murder charge, based on the state's "entire failure to disprove (Oates acted in) self defense."

Goldsmith denied the motion.

"I think it's an issue for the jury," he said.

Newman maintains Oates had the right to defend himself, even if that meant taking advantage of an opportunity to shoot Olivera in the back.

The victim, who was delivering presents to his brothers' family, became the aggressor when he pulled a gun and told Oates he was not leaving without his van, Newman said.

"He was hell-bent and determined that boot was coming off of that car," Newman said. "The defendant had no other choice than to act the way he acted."

Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.

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