Was the December 2018 shooting death of a Lawton teen predicated on fear or vengeance?
That is the question a Comanche County jury will decide following the first day of testimony in the trial of David Keith Winbush for the charge of first-degree murder. The crime is punishable by life in prison, life without parole or death.
Represented by public attorney Lawrence Corrales, Winbush, 37, took intermittent notes but primarily kept his eyes focused on the table before him during Tuesday's testimony. He is on trial for the shooting and killing of Marques Brown Jr., 15, who was a Lawton High School freshman when he died.
It began with the theft of Winbushs white 2003 Chevrolet Silverado the night of Dec. 8, 2018. Former Lawton Police Officer Austin Mahsetky testified to taking the stolen truck report from Winbush at his home at 502 SW Jefferson. He was told two males had stolen the truck.
Winbush and his friends had been a bar and arrived home to find the truck missing. After checking his home video surveillance system, he told Mahsetky the truck had been stolen about three to five minutes before hed arrived home.
He said that if hed caught them in the act, he wouldve filled the truck with lead, Mahsetky testified Tuesday.
Mahsetkysoon heard the 911 call made by Jessie Burk reporting the truck was found in the 1200 to 1300 block of Southwest Bishop Road. Mahsetky said he arrived to find Winbush standing in the street near his truck. Winbush's neighbor, Geronimo Martinezs truck was parked blocking it. It was shortly before 12:30 a.m. Dec. 9, 2018.
Winbush told Mahsetky that hed shot the driver twice. He turned over his handgun that was in his hip holster and was taken into custody. He told the officer the teen had pulled out a large knife and tried to stick him like a pig and he shot the (expletive).
Police never reported recovering a knife in the area of the incident nor was one collected when Brown was discovered.
Still upset about the truck, Winbush described its theft as a breaking point for him, according to Mahsetky. Hed recently been at the center of a story that caught a large amount of media attention when his dog was beaten and severely injured. That assault was also captured on Winbushs home security video.
He said he was tired of everything, tired of being messed with, Mahsetky said. He was tired of being a target.
Winbush later told investigators he ran up to the male on the ground who then jumped up while placing one of his hands into his jacket/hoodie pocket and that he freaked out. Mahsetky said Winbush described hearing a distinct gasp sound from Brown after the first gunshot.
He said he would never forget hearing that sound, Mashetky said. He said he'd thought he wouldnt feel so bad for using his gun.
Brown died as a result of two gunshot wounds fired from behind, according to the State Medical Examiners autopsy report.
Another friend of Winbush's, Kendall Jirtle, testified to driving Winbush to the site where Martinez had stopped the pickup. After leaving the bar, Jirtle said all were meeting at Winbushs home so they could drop their vehicles off and go to another bar. When he got there, Winbush told him the truck had been stolen. He and Jessie Burk watched the security video of the trucks theft.
When Mahsetky left from taking the theft report, Jirtle said Winbush spoke with Martinez, who was following the stolen pickup. Thats when Winbush said to go get it. Neither Jirtle nor Burk knew Winbush was armed.
Once at the scene, Winbush was the first out of the vehicle. He said Martinez was standing in the roadway and was looking down at Brown, who was lying face down on the ground.
Everything else happened after that, he said.
Jirtle said Winbush asked the teen if he was the one who stole his pickup. He saw Brown jump up and turn to run away and the first shot was fired. The second shot followed a moment later. He testified Winbush pulled the trigger and said he knew Brown had been hit by the first gunshot.
I heard the kid say oh, he said.
In the 911 recording played in court, Jirtle said it was his voice telling Winbush Dont shoot. Assistant District Attorney Jill Oliver asked him why he made that statement.
I didnt think he needed to shoot, he said. I know the first shot hit him.
Winbush told Jirtle the teen had a knife. Jirtle said he wasnt close enough to see if he did or didnt and, at first, believed his friend.
At that point and time, it was really hard to tell, he said. He had to have a reason to pull the gun.
Brown was able to run away for a short distance. Footprints in the snow led emergency personnel to him in the roadway on Southwest 13th Street near Oklahoma Avenue. The teen was taken to Comanche County Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Jirtle testified no one chased after Brown or the three other teens seen running away from the truck.
During cross-examination, Jirtle told Corrales he didnt hear anything about a knife from Winbush until after the two shots were fired. He confirmed he saw Winbush fire the weapon.
He fired the first shot when he (Brown) turned and went to run and one after that, he said. It was just one after another. Everything just happened so fast.
During Martinezs testimony, he confirmed hed been looking for the truck for his neighbor. When he got behind it and began to follow, he said the teens sped up.
When asked if he sped up to keep up with them, Martinez looked to his lawyer at the back of the courtroom, and then invoked his Fifth Amendment right to not incriminate himself. District Judge Emmit Tayloe asked the witness for clarity and determined he didnt want to admit to speeding. After Tayloe requested immunity for his exceeding the posted speed limit, and Oliver accepting it, Martinez confirmed he sped up in pursuit.
The teens driving the pickup made a turn from Southwest 11th Street onto Bishop Road at the northern boundary of the Lawton-Fort Sill Municipal Airport, struck a curb and went off the road to the right. Martinez said he pulled his vehicle in front of it and the doors opened with the teens bailing out. The truck continued and struck his truck.
Brown, who was unable to get away, was ordered to lie on the ground by Martinez and he complied. Winbush arrived moments later. When a knife was mentioned, thats when everything set off, he said.
He said knife, knife then the shots happened, Martinez said.
Martinez heard the first shot and saw the second burst from the handgun. He couldnt state for a fact that it was Winbush who fired the weapon, however.
Oliver then asked Martinez, Did you shoot the kid on the ground?
I plead the Fifth Amendment, Martinez replied.
Tayloe interjected and, again, asked Martinez if he pulled the trigger. This time, the witness answered: No.
I think you answered the question, Tayloe said.
Earlier testimony from one of the teens who had been in the pickup with Brown described the fear felt as they were pursued. The four had been riding around in the pickup, listening to music and smoking marijuana when a vehicle dropped in behind them, according to Warren Dennis.
When Martinezs truck blocked the truck, Dennis said they all tried to flee the stolen truck but Browns jacket was hung up on the door and the next time he looked, he was lying on the ground. As he ran, the sound of the gunshots scared him.
Dennis said he fled to his friends house. While on the run there, he said there was a truck that was circling the block and, he thought, looking for them. He said he wouldnt know Browns fate until seeing an Instagram post the next morning.
I just started crying and stuff, he said. Im scared to think about it. I got PTSD about it.
Testimony will resume at 9 a.m. today.
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