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Testimony resumes today after the case against three men accused of killing one and injuring five others outside a Florida night club hit several snags on Wednesday. Laquan Barrow, Michael Smith, and Gary King are all facing second-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder charges related to the shooting outside the Cloud 9 night club in Ocala.
Two of the state’s key witnesses backed away from testifying against defendant Laquan Barrow, complicating the prosecution’s case in chief.
One of the state’s key witnesses flat-out refused to testify after being both subpoenaed and ordered to testify by the judge. The judge held that witness, Christopher Jones, in contempt and sentenced him to 180 days in jail (Jones was already incarcerated on child abuse charges, but he won’t get to keep serving that sentence until the contempt charge is up). Jones was one of several key witnesses who could have placed Laquan Barrow as one of the triggermen, but the court never heard it. Our analysis of what Jones would have testified to, according to police reports, is here.
Another key witness recanted his previous identification of Laquan Barrow as one of the shooters. Dontarious Bartley, who was among the five who were injured, claims he gave the original identification of Barrow because he was being pressured by police. He told the jury he “lied” during his police interview and was “telling them what they want to hear.” However, Bartley failed to indicate how police were pressuring him other than to say officers were asking him questions after he emerged from emergency surgery and was on medication.
Police records indicate that Bartley was “alert, coherent, and above to provide his name and date of birth” when he was interviewed at the hospital four days after the shooting. Bartley further said during his original interview that he was “aware why detectives were speaking with him” and that he was “willing and able to speak with them about the incident.” Bartley told the officers he saw Laquan Barrow firing shots that night. Barrow told police he turned and fled and was shot in the back. While he originally said he saw Barrow shooting, he wasn’t certain whether Barrow shot him because his back was turned away from the shooter. The jury never heard this evidence directly from Bartley, but prosecutors did call a police officer to talk about the interview, which was recorded.
Another witness testified Wednesday that he saw defendant Barrow run to a dark-colored vehicle, retrieve a handgun, and begin to shoot. The witness said he heard approximately 20 shots (police recovered 21 shell casings from the scene). The witness, whom prosecutors asked us not to identify, ran to the victims. He couldn’t help Benetria Robinson, who was shot in the head and died at the scene, so he proceeded to comfort victim Nathaniel Kendrick.
Robinson, 19, died outside the club of gunshot wounds to her head and shoulder, police and court records indicate. Five others were injured. Nathaniel Kendrick, 35, suffered a gunshot wound to the chest. Danielle Kendrick, 28, and Dontarious Bartley, 19, were both shot in the back. Thomia Wadley, 21, and Danvinist Blunt, 22, were shot both in the leg.
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