LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department
Louisville Metro Police Department - Louisville, Kentucky

Man charged with murder of LMPD officer blames officer for fatal crash

WDRB 41 - Louisville, Kentucky
Jason Riley - WDRB 41
Man charged with murder of LMPD officer blames officer for fatal crash

In a jail phone call after being charged with murder for crashing into and killing Louisville Metro Police Officer Nick Rodman during a chase in March, Wathaniel Woods said he had almost escaped when Rodman "pulled some hero s**t (and) crashed into me," according to court records.

"He could've killed me," Woods said on April 5 to an unnamed female in one of five recorded jail phone calls released in his murder case last week. "I almost died too."

Woods repeatedly told the woman how serious his injuries were, how he was being mistreated in jail and that he was "minding my business" when officers tried to pull him over.

"I had one more corner to turn, and I was gone," Woods said. "That was it, and (then) I woke up in the hospital."

But in other calls on the same day, Woods also expressed regret, saying he "didn't intend to kill" Rodman.

"I send my condolences to his family, cause it wasn't intentional," he said. "I can't get caught with a pistol. I knew what I had to do, to do that."

Inmates are told at the beginning of jail calls that they are being recorded.

Woods' claim that Rodman crashed into him is refuted by eyewitness reports in the case.

Officer Kody Despain, for example, testified in an internal investigation that Woods never slowed down when he ran a light and hit Rodman.

"I didn't even see brake lights," Despain said, according to a transcript of his interview. "By the time Nick had pulled out, (Woods) hit him so hard I saw Nick's car jump up in the air with the suspect's."

Woods' actions and comments after the March 28 fatal wreck have been released as part of about 700 pages of documents, pictures, police body cam and dash cam videos and multiple interviews made public in his criminal case.

In a previously released jail call, Woods told a woman, "I was getting chased, and you know he's doing his job. I'm doing mine. Of course you know I can't stand getting caught with no pistol or nothing.

"... I did what we do, until we get rid of what we got and then we give up and take fleeing and evading and all that. That's what we do."

Inside the 2005 Lexus Woods was driving, police found a .45 caliber Glock handgun, crack cocaine packaged for sale, digital scales and several cell phones, according to police.

Woods said in a call from jail that he swallowed packages of cocaine during the chase.

Included in the evidence are videos showing Rodman's cruiser being struck and the frantic efforts of officers trying to save him as flames engulfed the vehicle.

In the recently released calls, Woods said of the chase: "I dusted that car. He couldn't out-drive me. Then dude goes and does some hero s**t and crashed into me."

Woods, also known as James Woods, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, DUI, assault, wanton endangerment, being a convicted felon in possession of a handgun and drug trafficking, among other charges. He is lodged in Metro Corrections on a $1 million bond.

Woods also allegedly struck a pedestrian during the police chase. The man was taken to a hospital with a concussion, brain bleeding, according to an interview he had with police. Woods has not been charged with hitting anyone else.

While in the hospital after the wreck, Woods claimed officers showed him a picture of Rodman and said, "Remember that face." He said officers also denied him access to his attorney.

Police denied both allegations, according to the records.

Police were first called after Woods had allegedly gotten into a fight with the mother of his child, who told police she was upset Woods was driving around with their child.

She told police Woods hit her several times in the face and once in the hand with a gun. When bystanders tried to stop the assault, Woods "fired several shots from the handgun and then fled," according to the investigative summary. Police found two bullet shells at the scene.

Police spotted Woods and took chase when he didn't stop. LMPD has said the chase was justified because Woods had committed a violent felony.

Rodman was attempting to join a car chase in pursuit of Woods in the Portland neighborhood when Woods hit Rodman's police cruiser at 78 miles per hour after running a red light at 26th and Duncan streets. The cruiser went airborne, struck a wall and burst into flames.

Rodman, who had his emergency lights on, was driving between 32 and 42 miles per hour, according to records.

Woods, 37, had a blood alcohol content of .26, more than three times the legal limit, and had cocaine and opium in his blood system, according to a police report.

Rodman was trying to make a left turn at a green light at 26th and Duncan Streets. After the wreck, an officer helped Rodman get out of his vehicle and into another police cruiser. Rodman was not conscious, police said.

An officer drove Rodman to University Hospital where he died of blunt force trauma the next day. Wood had head, leg and pelvis injuries.

"It is with great sadness that I update this summary with the death" of Rodman, according to a police officer's written summary of the wreck. "He will be greatly missed."