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Closing arguments are scheduled Tuesday in the Florida trial of three men accused of shooting six people outside a nightclub in Ocala. One of the six victims died at the scene with gunshot sounds to the head and shoulder.
Laquan Barrow, Michael Eugene Smith, and Gary Edward King were charged with second-degree murder for the death of 19-year-old Benetria Robinson. The shootings occurred September 13, 2015. Barrow was arrested September 21. King wasn’t arrested until October 26, and Smith wasn’t arrested until October 27. All three defendants were charged with attempted second-degree murder for the shooting and injuring of Nathaniel Kendrick, Dontarious Bartley, Thomia Wadley, and Danvinist Blunt. Barrow and Smith were charged with attempted second-degree murder for shooting victim Danielle Kendrick, but King was not.
At the state’s request, the judge agreed to allow the jury to consider the lesser-included offenses of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter. Lesser-included offenses are easier for the state to prove but carry a lighter sentence than the top charge.
None of the defendants took the witness stand.
Prosecutors believe a fight inside the club between several women resulted in the ejection of a series of patrons. Three men pulled guns, prosecutors say, and shot into the crowd. Investigators found 21 shell casings at the scene. Thirteen were linked to one gun. Four each were linked to two other guns. Several of the defendants warned or threatened patrons that violence was about to erupt, according to police reports. Barrow said, “Y’all better move, I got bond money and I am going to catch a body tonight,” according to an arrest affidavit.
Despite a parade of prosecution witnesses stating that Smith, Barrow, and King were the triggermen, the defendants called a few relatives and friends to say they were also present at the club. The defense witnesses said they were with Smith, Barrow, and King during the shooting and that the three defendants were not involved.
Nathaniel Kendrick was the most seriously wounded. Though he originally implicated only Laquan Barrow as the shooter in police interviews, he implicated all three defendants from the witness stand. When questioned about the discrepancy by defense attorneys, he said he’d never forget the faces of people who tried to kill him. Kendrick was in a coma for more than a month and was medicated after emerging from a series of surgeries during his original police interview, he said.
The majority of the witnesses identified Laquan Barrow as the shooter. A few implicated Smith. Police reports also indicate that Smith confessed to a friend. The state presented the least evidence against King.
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