A Florida jury has acquitted Gary Edward King of second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges over a deadly shooting outside the Cloud 9 Nightclub in Ocala. Benetria Robinson, 19, died at the scene with gunshot wounds to her head and shoulder. Five others were wounded in the September 13, 2015 attack, which prosecutors say started after a few women began fighting inside the club. The fight spilled out into the parking lot and the defendants escalated it, prosecutors alleged, but bringing guns, threatening to shoot, and firing 21 bullets shortly later. Two other defendants,Laquan Barrow and Michael Eugene Smith, were previously convicted by a separate jury. All three men were tried together, but separate juries heard the cases, presumably because King was not charged with attempted second-degree murder related to the shooting of victim Danielle Kendrick. The other two co-defendants were convicted, King was acquitted.
19-year-old Benetria Robinson died in the attack. In addition to Danielle Kendrick, victims Nathaniel Kendrick, Dontarious Bartley, Thomia Wadley, and Danvinist Blunt were all injured. At the close of the state’s rebuttal case, the judge agreed to allow the jury to consider the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter with relation to the various victims.
Investigators found 21 shell casings at the scene. Ballistics experts traced the casings back to three separate weapons. One weapon fired 13 bullets; a second and third gun fired four bullets each, investigators said. The shooting took place over a period of about five seconds. Police who were working an unrelated traffic stop around the corner picked up the sound of the gunfire on body cameras.
During the trial, one witness refused to testify truthfully and refused to even acknowledge his name. The judge sentenced that witness to six months in jail for contempt. Another witness who did testify refused to admit he had previously told police he saw one of the defendants pull the trigger.
However, victim Nathaniel Kendrick, who originally implicated only Laquan Barrow as a shooter, at trial said all three defendants were involved. Defense attorneys questioned the discrepancy, but Kendrick snapped back that he’d never forget the faces of the three people who tried to kill him. Kendrick was shot in the chest and was the most severely wounded of the survivors. He spent a month in a coma after a series of surgeries and was medicated when police interviewed him, he said.
The majority of the witnesses implicated Laquan Barrow as the shooter. A few implicated Smith. Police reports also indicate Smith confessed to a friend. The state presented the least evidence against King.
None of the defendants were arrested immediately after the shooting. Barrow was arrested until eight days later on September 21, 2015. King wasn’t arrested until October 26, and Smith wasn’t arrested until October 27.