Courtesy WWL-TV
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An argument following a hit and run last month led to a shooting in Destrehan, Louisiana. Michael Woulfe allegedly sideswiped Walter Tabary’s car and then drove off. Tabary, with his wife who was in the car at the time, followed Woulfe to his home a short distance away while dialing 911.

According to the neighbor Mike Wodarczyk, the two began arguing about the accident and that’s when an argument escalated with Tabary shooting Woulfe in the gut.

As the neighbor told WWL TV, Woulfe “pulled his truck in, nothing unusual, and the other car pulled behind him, and once they both got out, they started arguing, and I didn’t go over at first because I figured it wasn’t my business, then I heard, ‘going to shoot you,’ or something. That’s when I went over, and I got between them to try and break it up,”

Wodarczyk said, “He got the gun and pointed it right at his belly and shot him.”

According to Wodarczyk, “Eventually, that older feller got back in his car. Mike was very upset at that point, and he tried to get into the car. He got a wrench and broke that window. That’s when the guy shot him two more times.”

Woulfe was airlifted to a hospital for emergency surgery and has since recovered. But the police investigation tells a slightly different story.

From . . .

“After an extensive and thorough investigation including securing video footage of the events, it was determined that Woulfe was the aggressor and provoked [the 78-year-old] to respond in self-defense,” the Sheriff’s Office said in the statement. …

Woulfe was booked with second-degree battery, aggravated burglary, DWI and reckless operation of a vehicle involving an accident, the Sheriff’s Office said. Woulfe had a blood alcohol of more than 0.20%, well over the 0.08% legal-limit, according to the agency.

Michael Woulfe arrested
Courtesy St. Charles Parish Sheriff 

There have been many studies done and found it is common for eyewitnesses to get details wrong plus make mistakes in recalling what happened during a stressful situation. Innocent people go free, and criminals are convicted based on eyewitness testimony.

This is one case where there seems to be a massive difference between what happened and what witnesses thought they saw.

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  1. I learned how unreliable I am as an eyewitness early on. Something I can still remember vividly in my brain is contradicted by clear video evidence. It still bothers me now, 45 years after the fact, and I have no explanation. All I can conclude is to never trust any eyewitness. I used to temper that with the exception of an eyewitness who knew all the parties involved, but that phases didn’t last long.

    This story confirms me in my belief. His memory is faulty to the advantage of the one party he knew, to the disadvantage of the one party he didn’t know.

    I can think of rationalizations, primarily that he was so accustomed to the mannerisms and temperament of his neighbor that he just wrote off the aggression and drunkenness as normal. That also confirms me in my decision to never trust any eyewitnesses for anything.

    • “note to self “get a body cam””

      I’ve been seriously contemplating that for when out bike riding, and a car cam as well. Time to research…

      • Go Pro is a good starting point but be sure to figure out function/operation before purchase if possible. I tend towards large simple buttons to make for easy operation in short timeframes.

      • It will probably take you 4 videos MAX to realize you should have a dash cam in every vehicle you have. Good ones can be had for less than $100.
        If you watch any on the toob of U there are always instances where people have been saved from either prosecution or thousands in damages because they had a dash cam.

  2. Many years ago, an experiment was set up whereby an incident was staged at an intersection, with witnesses (subjects) at all four corners. The nature of the incident was that one of the two involved vehicles ran a red light. After the incident, all four witnesses were interviewed as to what happened and who ran the light. Their stories were different not just as to details, but as to who ran the light.
    The law has long recognized that witnesses may be unreliable for various reasons, from faulty memory or misperception to outright lying. That is why the credibility of witnesses is solely determined by the jury who heard the testimony, and factual determinations by the jury are not typically subject to review on appeal. And this is also why documents, photographs and videos are such important pieces of evidence–they are harder to fake.

  3. The first shot fired is the only questionable one, and the witness evidence is ambiguous. The second two shots clearly demonstrate that the “victim” was the aggressor. It certainly did not help him that he was younger, fit, angry and drunk. I wonder what the old man shot him with.

  4. I almost never got the same eye-witness statement from the same eyewitness. Just saying, don’t trust your lying eyes.

  5. Human memory is notoriously fallible, especially in a stressful situation.

    I did a FoF class a few years ago where they videotaped the scenario and then immediately debriefed / lightly interrogated you afterwards (“how many shots did you fire?” “what was he wearing?” “where was he when you saw the gun?” etc.).

    Even though it had JUST HAPPENED (<3 minutes before) and involved only a mild adrenaline dump (compared to an actual DGU), I was 100% sure my answers were correct and accurate. Then they rolled the film . . . and it was undisputable that some my answers were not accurate, even though my memory convinced me that they were. (Lesson was to teach you why you should not say anything to the police immediately after a DGU — shut up, take the ride, wait for your attorney.)

    • Scary thing is, people are sent to prison for life, based on ‘eyewitness’ testimony…

      • Agreed. I think the next to last line of the article could be written either way and still be right, sadly.

    • Nonetheless, the law treats such “excited utterances” as having a high degree of reliability, and they are always admissible in evidence.

  6. Geoff, when I taught a CCW class I had my students repeat like a mantra; “Officer! I want to cooperate with your investigation. However, I decline to make a statement or answer any questions until I’ve spoken with an attorney.” “Oh, he’s the bad guy.” As I point to a prostrate body on the ground. “I want to press charges.”

  7. Probably 15 years back, I got stuck on an icy bridge when the school bus about 50 feet ahead of me fish-tailed and got stuck, blocking both lanes. I was in the left lane just a bit past the top of the bridge, so I pulled off as best I could, put my flashers on, and prayed nobody would hit me or the other cars also now stuck on the bridge.

    Sure enough, at some point this idiot comes flying over the crest at least 50 mph (the road was a 35 mph zone), and loses it on the ice. Dude hits a car in the right lane hard enough to knock it up on the curb, then spins out, missing my front end by less than a foot and slamming sideways into the (thankfully empty) school bus.

    First responders and the police show up while the bus is finally unstuck. The EMT asks me if I’m okay, yadda yadda. Then the responding police officer comes to speak to me. He promptly tells me an eyewitness said I caused the accident.

    Now, the guy who did cause the accident was driving a white Ford Escort wagon. I was driving a bright red Toyota Camry. Not even close. I explained to the cop what actually happened, and he went and checked back with the woman who said I caused the accident.

    The cop was pretty cool about things, and when he came back, he told me the lady said it was a black guy who was driving the red car that caused the accident. There was a black guy in a maroon car behind us, but that guy didn’t even show up until well after the accident. (The guy driving the Escort was Latino, btw, and I’m whiter than Mitt Romney).

    It was a real eye opener.

  8. I dont know how they do numbers.
    And neither do I , but .20 is not over .8 on the blood alcohol thing. .20 is still legal to drive in some states.30 in others.
    Their point 20 and that guy would have been in a morgue.
    So just more bullsht propaganda.
    One thing people are going to have to learn. When you get in somebody’s face it doesn’t end well, I dont care who you are, or what happened, or who’s wrong or right .
    Theres a fight at every 4 way stop intersection if you want one.

    • .08 is the legal limit in most states. 0.2 is about the average blown BAC and is pretty drunk. If you blow a .3 or higher and are coherent that is impressive.

    • A .20 BAC represents about 10 alcoholic drinks for a 200 lb man in 40 minutes. That’s drunk. I’ve never seen someone with a .30 remain conscious, and I’ve not seen an above .40 stay alive.

      • In the mid-1980s I arrested a good old boy in Wyoming who had a BAC of .40. He was pretty looped, but could still speak and wobbled around. He had cancer, and was prescribed meds, but boasted that he instead drank whiskey. A lot of whiskey.

        • I young kid where I retired from is currently idled from his job after blowing an “aggrevated . 06 “, the county sheriff asked if he was on any medication and he admitted to having taking something for his back injury. Lost his CDL for one year, which is a requirement for employment…. yep, moral of story- tell the cops NOTHING.

  9. The FAA has known that for years. “Witness accounts” of events leading to an aircraft incident are the most unreliable pieces of evidence that can be collected for a specific event.

  10. Most people are not trained, or even slightly skilled as observers. Hell, most folks don’t even notice the dog turd on the sidewalk befor they step in it.
    Because of some of the duties I had in the Army, I was trained as an observer and have been, unfortunately, a witness to a couple of violent inccidents. 1 was caught on survalence video. My account of events matched nearly exactly with what was on the video. Differences were from point of perspective, angle of view. I even caught the suspects license plate. Something the video didn’t have.
    Today, I have a dash cam in both my car and in the pick up truck. While I usually do forget to take the damn thing with me, I do have a body cam as well. Since I’m getting old, It might be a good idea to take it along when I go into town. Not that I’m worried I may be wrong, but that someone else may be. And, my eyes aren’t as good as they used to be. Getting a little near sighted and myopic. But, at 74 what could I expect.

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