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Closing arguments set for Friday at 9 a.m. in Jamarion Thomas murder trial
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Tilonda Thomas, Villages of Hanna shooting victim and mother of defendant Jamarion Thomas, now on trial for murder and reckless homicide, said her life has been in shambles since May 22, 2021 when bullets ripped through her downstairs apartment during a gun battle.
“It has been kind of a tragedy on top of a tragedy,” Tilonda said at the courthouse after testifying Thursday morning. During the incident, she was shot four times and nearly died.
“I’ve been still trying to heal since the situation. I’ve been homeless, living in my car and things like that. I’d just like for someone to reach out to help me in this. I need support in this from the city, the state of the Indiana. It’s not fair. It’s not right.”
Thomas also voiced concerns about the all-white jury sitting in judgment of her 22-year-old son who authorities have identified as the shooter whose bullet ripped holes in Building 7B, killing 29-year-old Candiace Lay. On top of murder and reckless homicide, Jamarion faces two charges of criminal recklessness.
“This is terrible for anyone,” Tilonda said. “We didn’t harm anyone. We were harmed, you know. And it’s just crazy how the system works to try to make it seem like we went to try to harm someone, and things like that.”
Tilonda Thomas testified for the defense after the jury watched two videos of her son just after the shooting. Jamarion was distraught in the first video, throwing up his hands, putting his face on the table, then knocking – not banging – on the wall to get officer Nicholas McCurdy’s attention after he realized he was shot.
“They shot me in the ass,” Jamarion repeated over and over again. As McCurdy handcuffs him at the back, he talks about his mother getting shot.
“Do you know how many people were shooting at me? I don’t even know,” Jamarion says. “I wasn’t trying to scare nobody.”
In a subsequent interview with Detective Andrew Noll, Noll tries to get some information out of Jamarion as to who was shooting at him and his family and why. Thomas recalled there being a crowd of people.
Noll also tells Jamarion that one of his bullets killed an innocent person and that he is “responsible” for every bullet he fired. But Thomas’ attorney, Robert Scremin, objected to the declaration that his bullet was the deadly one.
“If you are fired upon, you are allowed to defend yourself,” Scremin testified.
That could be the crux of the case as far as Scremin is concerned. After both sides rested, they discussed self-defense laws with Superior Court Judge David Zent who will include information in his instructions.
The jury asked many questions during this trial and many of those questions were about the sequence of events early on May 22.
Summary of events: multiple people wounded in gun battle
Around 12:35 a.m., Jamarion Thomas pulled up in one of two cars in the parking lot near Building 5B where he lived with his mother and siblings. Tilonda testified she pulled up in her truck around the same time.
According to some witness testimony, Tilonda faced the men who were making threats and pointing guns at them and told them she would “take care of it.”
Tilonda, who has endured 15 surgeries and can only eat blended food, didn’t recall that version at all.
Tilonda also doesn’t remember Jamarion waving around his legally obtained AR-15 rifle or seeing him let off one round into the air, but others said they heard it.
What followed was a gun battle, a war zone, and tragedy upon tragedy, as Tilonda referred to it. Just as Tilonda walked into the apartment building, the door which faces the side at the parking lot, she was shot four times. Her sister Shimeka Thomas was shot in the jaw.
Fighting the pain and the pressure of her wounds, Tilonda crawled into her apartment, and recalled when police arrived.
Mother says officers pulled her son out by his hair
“The officers came in with their guns out. They were pulling my son out by his hair,” Tilonda said.
At the hospital, lead homicide detective Scott Tegtmeyer said he wasn’t able to interview her. She was intubated and fell into a coma. By mid-July, she was out of the coma, Tilonda said.
Tegtmeyer said he wasn’t able to interview any suspects i.e. the gunmen who sent a hail of at least 60 bullets into the side of Building 5B, sending occupants to the floor. Nor were any other detectives, apparently.
Bullets busted out windows and left their marks in the siding. Fear rules the apartment complex, people said without wanting to go on the record. One common thread is that the men “aren’t from around here.”
Video surveillance shows the silvery rain of bullets and then Jamarion stepping out of entrance 5B to fire numerous rounds from his rifle.
Crime scene tech Al Garriott said a rifle ripped through 7B
On Wednesday, crime scene technician Al Garriott said it was rounds from a rifle that ripped through the side of Building 7B where Lay was innocently watching television.
AR-15 rounds are fired at a velocity of 3,200 feet per second, rending different-sized holes in the building’s edifice. However, a forensic firearm expert from the Indiana State Police, said the bullets or fragments retrieved from the victim’s skull couldn’t be absolutely identified as fired from that gun.
In contrast, Garriott said a 9mm gun fires at between 900 and 1,300 feet per second and a 45 caliber gun, between 800 and 1,100 feet per second.
“They simply do not have the velocity to go in and out the opposite side (of a building),” Garriott testified.
Of the shell casings tested – and not every single shell casing was – the firearm expert determined there were probably five guns – three 9mm, one 45 caliber and one AR-15 – but there could have been up to 10 guns fired, she said.
What was Jamarion’s reaction when Noll told him his bullet killed someone? It was very difficult to see or hear that from the gallery. The prosecution said he laughed.
But was it more from disbelief, Scremin asked. The interview conducted at 5:30 a.m., just a few hours after the incident, presented no proof or evidence of that.
“He’d just been through hell,” his grandmother, Theresa Thomas, said in the courthouse hallway after she viewed the videos. “He was distraught. He’s never been in trouble in his life. He’s always been a great young man.”
Tilonda Thomas said she wanted justice for all.
“My condolences for what happened in this situation, but we are not to blame. Let’s be truthful and right in this here, and take a stand for justice for all. The truth shall set you free. Bless you all and thank you,” Tilonda said.
Closing arguments are scheduled for Friday morning with Chief Deputy Thomas Chaille and Chief Counsel Tesa Helge representing the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office and Scremin and Alexander Newman for the defense.