Dorothy de Souza Guedes/CLINTON BUREAU/March 29, 2001
CLINTON, Iowa Afraid that a man he barely knew was going to rob and shoot him after an argument, Albert "Ace" Elliott said Wednesday he drove his car toward the man and his two companions as they stood on a Clinton sidewalk, hoping to scare them off.
He expected them to jump out of the way as he approached, but they didn't, and Elliott drove over one of the men, seriously injuring him, he testified in his attempted murder and willful injury trial in Clinton County District Court.
Elliott said he had been drinking for about seven hours Sept. 27 before driving to One Stop Convenience Store, 2344 Camanche Ave., for cigarettes about 10 p.m. There he saw Kenyatta Harlston, who started an argument in front of the store, Elliott said. Other witnesses, however, testified that Elliott confronted Harlston first.
"If you're trying to suggest I would confront three young black men over $30 you are wrong, wrong, wrong," Elliott said.
Elliott, 53, was the only witness called by the defense in the three-day trial. Closing statements will begin at 9 a.m. today, followed by instructions to the jury and jury deliberations.
The injured man, George Davis, received life-threatening injuries from being struck and run over by Elliott as he sped away from One Stop. Davis was with Harlston and a 15-year-old boy at the store that night, when Elliott and Harlston began arguing about money.
Clinton police Sgt. Tom Bohle, the detective in charge of the case, recounted an interview with Elliott on Oct. 3 in Scott County Jail, in which Elliott told him what he remembered about the incident at the convenience store.
Elliott and Harlston first met at the Poltergeist Pub in Clinton about a year before the Sept. 27 incident. He was playing pool, and winning, when Harlston approached him offering to sell a rock of cocaine for $50. He didn't want the drugs, but gave Harlston $30 anyway to get rid of him, Elliott told Bohle. Between then and last September, the two men ran into each other twice, and both times Elliott asked Harlston to return his $30, admitting that he got loud and belligerent each time. Harlston did not give him the money.
On Sept. 27, the men met again at the One Stop. They argued for several minutes before Harlston and his companions walked away. Elliott told Bohle that as they left, he heard Harlston say something like, "I'm going to shoot you, punk."
Harlston kept walking, then stopped, turned and reached under his pullover for what Elliott thought was a gun, Bohle said Elliott told him. Pumped full of adrenaline because he was so afraid, Elliott turned on his bright headlights, closed his eyes, accelerated and drove toward the man.
He felt a bump and realized he had hit a person with his car, Elliott told the detective, but also contradicted himself during the interview by saying that he didn't realize he had hit a person until he read media accounts of the incident.
Elliott sped away from the scene and stayed with friends. One of those friends, Wayne Watters of Wheatland, testified that on Sept. 28 Elliott told him that he had "snapped" the previous night and run over someone and that he felt the body under his car.
Elliott eventually ending up in Davenport, where he was arrested Oct. 3. He is being held in Clinton County Jail on $100,000 bond.