MOBILE, ALABAMA -– The girlfriend of a homicide victim described the events leading up to the fatal shooting last year and pointed to defendant Kendramei Jones when asked if the shooter was in the courtroom.
Jurors heard a recording of the hysterical 911 call that Nicole Eldridge made after the shooting. She told jurors that the shooter knocked off her boyfriend’s hat and then shot him as he was making his way back to the car.
“Then the guy just started shooting,” she testified, “He shot until his clip was empty.”
Eldridge acknowledged under cross-examination, however, that she picked two other men out of a photo lineup despite telling investigators that she got a good look at the man who fired the shots that killed Willie Gunn at the Texaco station on Prichard’s St. Stephens Road in March 2011.
“They got the wrong guy,” defense lawyer Jason Darley said during his opening statement. “This is a very, very unfortunate case, obviously. But this is not the guy who did it.”
Assistant District Attorney Keith Blackwood told jurors in his opening statement that other witnesses did identify Jones as the shooter. One of those was Crystal Johnson, who was with Eldridge and Gunn on the night of the shooting.
Johnson testified in the navy blue inmate uniform of Mobile County Metro Jail, where she has been since Monday when she failed to honor a subpoena to come to court, prompting prosecutors to get a material witness arrest warrant.
Johnson testified that she had gone with Eldridge to the Trinity Gardens Mardi Gras parade the day of the shooting and then stopped at the gas station to pick up Gunn. She told jurors that she got into an argument with Gun in the parking lot.
“Next thing I knew, the shooter came out of nowhere,” she said, adding that she never had seen him before.
Johnson said she and the shooter got into an altercation that turned violent.
“I don’t remember what he was saying. I don’t remember why I slapped him,” she testified.
But Johnson testified that the shooter responded by slapping her and then pulling a gun and threatening to kill her. She testified that the shooter then walked toward Gunn, who reached for his pocket before the gunman opened fire.
During cross-examination, Darley picked apart at inconsistencies between Johnson’s testimony and statements she made to investigators. For instance, Johnson described the shooter as having a caramel complexion, which in fact is skin color is quite dark.
Johnson’s account also differed somewhat from Eldridge. Whereas Eldridge reported that the assailant put his gun against her friend’s head, Johnson testified that he did not.
Later today, Blackwood told jurors, law enforcement officials will testified that they found five shell casings at the gas station that ballistics experts determined came from the same 9mm handgun. He also told jurors that the defendant’s behavior follow the shooter points to his guilt. He was hiding when police arrested him, Blackwood said, and he already had changed his appearance by shaving his head.
As for Gunn, Blackwood said, he simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time and did nothing to justify the murder.
“He was a quiet, laid-back guy,” Blackwood said. “He was shot down by a man he never met. He was shot down in cold blood for no reason.”