Trial begins for man charged in beating 82-year-old man and shooting Independence officer

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- The trial for a man accused in an Independence burglary that ended with a police officer shot began Tuesday.

Joseph Wyatt is charged in a robbery from March 2017 that left an 82-year-old severely beaten and Officer Tom Wagstaff critically hurt.

Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, using pretty strong language in her opening statements described it as a "pretty simple but very dramatic case of greed versus service and sacrifice."

Back in March 2017, a now 83-year-old Don Fowler testified he was sitting at his home computer, looking at stocks. Two young men, one later identified as Wyatt, came knocking on his door. They offered to clean his gutters, then mentioned a lost dog and ended up leaving.

Minutes later, Fowler said they came back, ultimately forcing their way into his home, shoving him into a glass sliding door and repeatedly beating him and threatening to "blow his head off."

They made repeated demands to access his safe, which held a gun collection and roughly $100,000 in gold. He refused to give them the code. They zip tied his hands and stole a stack of cash and a gun. Eventually, when police started to arrive, the suspects demanded Fowler's car keys.

The two suspects got into Fowler's SUV and backed out through the garage. Fowler said he then heard gunshots. Police took him to the ground until they learned he was the victim and got him to the hospital.

Officer Tom Wagstaff

During the chaos Wagstaff was shot.

Several police officers from Kansas City and Independence took the stand Tuesday.

Independence officers testified there was commotion inside the home when they got there. As the suspects drove through the garage, officers fired at the vehicle, hitting one of the tires. The pair kept going and crashed the stolen SUV.

Wyatt got out and took off running, police said. Officers rammed Wyatt with a cruiser and ran over him. Wyatt allegedly ran with a gun and tried to carjack another driver, but he and the second suspect were both arrested.

Two detectives and a crime scene tech also testified Tuesday morning about the ordeal. Wagstaff's wife sat in the front row, emotional at times listening to the testimony with an Independence officer at her side.

The trial is expected to last about a week. Because Wyatt requested a bench trial, a judge will rule whether he is guilty or not.

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