Several witnesses in the Deondra Thomas murder trial testified on Thursday about what they saw or heard when Jason Roberts was fatally shot.
Thomas, 37, of Davenport, is charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm or offensive weapon by a felon in connection with the shooting of Roberts, 46, of Davenport, according to authorities. The shooting happened about 2 a.m. June 9 in the 800 block of W. 4th Street in Davenport.
Prosecutors contend the shooting occurred when Roberts attempted to calm a group of quarreling people at a bar, and Thomas, who was taking part in the altercation, shot him. Thomas, the state argues, then fled the area as a passenger in a maroon SUV.
The witnesses presented this week have been for the prosecution, each providing pieces of the narrative the state argues the evidence supports. Thursday, most of that testimony was from people who were at the bar when Roberts was killed.
Jack Dusthimer, Thomas' defense attorney, declined Thursday to say whether he would present his own witnesses or whether his client would testify. Though the defense can have its own witnesses, it is not required because the burden of proof in a criminal trial is on the state. Defense lawyers can cross-examine the witnesses presented by prosecutors.
Dusthimer has argued there are inconsistencies in the accounts of the various witnesses being used by the prosecution which cast doubt on how the shooting unfolded or who carried it out.
His cross-examination has included questioning witnesses about differences between statements they have given to authorities or to him over the course of the case.
The trial is scheduled for nine days. It is expected to last into next week.
The witnesses on Thursday included:
– Aaron Robinson: His testimony included that he was in a parked vehicle with the windows up, facing the entrance of the bar.
He arrived as a passenger in a vehicle driven by Denise Coppage, another witness. He had been at another bar, but said he'd only had a beer and a shot.
There were people out in the parking lot, and there was a verbal quarrel going on between some of them about 30 feet away from where Robinson was.
Robinson said he saw Roberts put himself between Thomas and another person, though he was not being aggressive.
Robinson said he saw Thomas pull back and raise his arm with an object in his hand. He told the jury he heard shots and people scattered.
Prior to the shooting, Robinson said he had run into Thomas at a barber shop and Thomas was armed with a black-and-silver pistol. Robinson said Thomas told him that he would “blast” anyone who looked at him wrong and that he wished someone would.
When the shooting happened, Robinson only recalled seeing black on the object Thomas was holding, not silver.
While being questioned by the attorneys, Robinson said he had not wanted to get involved in the investigation or participate in the trial.
He went to the authorities after telling Roberts' family that he saw Thomas shoot Roberts, Robinson testified. The family encouraged him to contact authorities.
Robinson said from the stand that while discussing the incident with police, he had used the last name Thompson when referring to Deondra Thomas, but that he meant the defendant.
At several points, after reviewing audio of interviews with police or a transcript of an earlier deposition he gave Dusthimer, Robinson testified that during previous statements he said that the windows were down in the vehicle in which he was sitting, and that the quarrel was about 20 feet away.
– Denise Coppage: Her testimony was that she picked Robinson up from the bar he was at earlier, and she drove them to the bar in the 800 block of W. 4th Street.
She said she was intoxicated and that she heard shots, but did not see the shooting.
Coppage described Robinson as intoxicated “but not really” and said she did not know what he was doing as he sat in the vehicle with her when the shooting happened.
She also told the jurors during questioning by the attorneys that she had not wanted to participate in the trial.
– Tatlan Anderson: His testimony included that he is related to the bar's owner. In the hours before the shooting, he said he'd had a few beers and believed he was buzzed, but not intoxicated.
He said that just before the shooting, he had helped usher everyone out of the bar so the staff could close. He'd gotten a ride with other family members and was getting ready to leave when he heard three shots.
Anderson said he was on the far end of the parking lot, to the west of the bar when the gunfire occurred. He was facing away, but turned when he heard the sounds.
Anderson testified he saw people running and scattering, but one caught his attention because he was walking briskly, not running. This person walked to a maroon or red or purple SUV in the alley to the south of the bar and got in it. The SUV then drove away, heading toward Warren Street.
Anderson described this person as a male black, about 5-feet-10-inches tall and wearing a black coat with a diamond pattern on it.
In Wednesday's testimony, Davenport Police Officer Brandon Askew told the jury he was on patrol, northbound on Warren Street just west of the shooting scene when a maroon SUV pulled out of an alley on his right, forcing him and his partner to brake their squad.
They were not aware of the shooting at that time, and the SUV continued on. Askew said he believed it went south. The squad's emergency lights were not on, so the dash camera was not activated.