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Trial continues this week in Allen Superior Court

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Jamarion Thomas was 20 years old when a bullet he reportedly fired from an AR-15 rifle pierced the wall of apartment 7B at Villages of Hanna and killed a 29-year-old woman.

During the same gun battle taking place in the parking lot, Thomas’s mother, Tilonda Thomas, his as-yet unidentified aunt and Thomas were shot inside their apartment.

Two people received graze wounds as they ran to escape flying bullets around 12:35 a.m. May 22, 2021.

The prosecution team: Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille and Chief Counsel Tesa Helge

Tilonda Thomas was shot four times in the chest and endured months of hospitalization.

Fort Wayne police had no problem identifying Thomas as the one who killed Candiace Lay, shot as she took cover in her upstairs apartment in Building 7B. Bullets from his legally owned rifle matched bullets fired into that building and video showed him walking into Building 5B with members of his family.

Thomas was charged with murder, reckless homicide, two counts of criminal recklessness and using a firearm in the commission of an offense. His trial started Tuesday in Allen Superior Court Judge David Zent’s courtroom. In court Tuesday, jurors heard the anguished 911 call of Lay’s boyfriend as he begged dispatch to get EMS there to save her life. “She’s still breathing,” he told them a few minutes after shots were fired that night.

Defense attorney for Jamarion Thomas, Robert Cliff Scremin

On his second call, he once again begged for medical help.

“Did you see the person who did it?” the female dispatcher asked.

“No,” he says in frustration and exasperation. “We’re inside.”

At 12:54 a.m., he again tells dispatch she’s still breathing and then utters an expletive.

The prosecution played several 911 calls, meant to show the chaos of the night. Surveillance video told the story of Thomas returning fire.

After he walked into 5B, bullets rained down on the building where he and his family had entered. Thomas walked out of his home, some 230 feet away from Building 7B where Lay died, and let it rip with his rifle. A younger brother, Cornelius Jackson, testified Tuesday that Thomas came inside for another clip.

Several were shot, but only Thomas was arrested. The rest ‘scattered” and were never caught.

“You won’t hear from anybody who shot at them,” said Robert Scremin, Thomas’s attorney. “They scattered.”

Scremin said Thomas “was walking into his own home. More than 50 bullets were fired into it. “He didn’t want to murder anyone. He wanted to protect his family.”

“Make no mistake, this was a gun battle,” Scremin said. The tragedy was “not caused by Jamarion Thomas. It was caused by cowards in the parking lot.”

Allen County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille disagreed. Chaille described an interview with FWPD detective Andy Noll right after the shooting, and said Thomas laughed when he heard one of his bullets killed someone.

“You’ll see that interview,” Chaille promised, who also said Thomas fired 80-plus rounds during the gun battle.

“When you fire a gun, you’re responsible,” Chaille said. But Thomas “tried to paint himself as the real victim.”

Thomas arrived at his home with his mother, aunt and others and in response to the armed men in the parking lot, “he raises a gun above his head, showing off,” Chaille said.

One apartment resident testified that gatherings were common in that parking lot and with drinking and loud music, arguments sometimes occurred.

The trial resumes Wednesday at 8:45 a.m.