Testimony continues Wednesday in the trial of a Davenport teenager charged in the June dragging death of 18-year-old Aaron Cotton.
Jonathan J. Behan Jr., 18, is charged with homicide by vehicle and failure to stop at the scene of an accident resulting in death.
If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison.
At about 10:30 p.m. on June 23, Davenport police, fire and Medic EMS responded to the 2100 block of West 58th Street for a report of an unconscious man lying in the road. Officers and medical personnel discovered that the man, later identified as Cotton, was dead.
Police say that during a drug transaction, marijuana was taken from Cotton and that Behan tried to flee the scene in his teal Ford pick-up truck without paying.
Cotton was clinging to the vehicle while Behan accelerated the truck and steered the vehicle aggressively by turning it left and right in an attempt to force Cotton to fall from the vehicle, according to police.
Behan continued to drive aggressively for four to five blocks when, in the 2100 block of West 58th Street, Cotton fell from the vehicle and suffered fatal injuries, according police.
Behan initially faced the more serious charges of first-degree murder and first-degree robbery, but prosecutors downgraded the charges earlier this year.
Behan's attorneys filed a notice in October that said he was "compelled to drive the vehicle in the way that he did only by another's threat or menace of serious injury" and that he had a "reasonable belief that such injury was imminent and could be averted only by taking such action."
On Tuesday, the first full day of testimony, prosecutors called 15 witnesses, including 18-year-old Daniel Garcia, who said he was in Behan’s truck that night.
He testified that Behan had picked him up and the two drove around before going to a gas station.
He said the two had known each other since junior high school. Garcia said he also knew Cotton.
Garcia and Behan waited around at the gas station that night “to figure out what we was about to do.”
He said the two wanted to smoke marijuana and that he called Cotton, who Garcia said had messaged him earlier in the day about having marijuana.
“It went from there,” Garcia said and added that they agreed to meet at Wood Intermediate School on North Division Street.
Garcia said when they arrived the school, Cotton “just scaled it (the marijuana) out” and placed it into his hand. The truck then began moving and Cotton grabbed onto it, Garcia said.
“We had took the weed without paying for it,” he said. “It just happened.”
After Cotton grabbed onto the truck, Behan pulled off to a side street and started driving faster and swerving to try and dislodge Cotton from the truck, Garcia said.
“I told him to slow down, ‘you’re about to kill us,’ and he kept going,” he said.
Garcia said Behan slowed down at one point but kept driving. They also felt a “bump,” he said.
The two then drove to a friend’s house on Marquette Street in Davenport. While there, they talked about going back and checking to make sure Cotton was OK, Garcia said.
They never went back and Behan dropped Garcia off at home, he said.
Cedric Kennedy, who lived in the neighborhood, said he and his brother were on their way home from a gas station that night when they saw what looked like a body lying in the street.
Kennedy said he got out of the car his brother was driving and, as he got closer to the body, noted that it was a “pretty bad situation.”
“He was badly hurt because I seen that his back of the head was a very big pool of blood,” he said. “eyes, nose, ears, mouth, everything that he could have blood come out, it came out.”
Kennedy said he grabbed Cotton’s ankle and asked him if he could hear him. He got no response, Kennedy said.
Later that night, Cotton’s father, Leonard, and others came to Garcia’s house and asked him about the incident. Garcia said he told them that Behan was the driver.
“I was in shock,” he said. “I didn’t know he had died until he came to my house and told me.”
Garcia said he called Behan.
“I don’t remember what he said, but he never showed,” Garcia said.