FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – They were sitting in the front living room of their apartment when the gunfire erupted.
At least two groups of people fired 300 rounds at each other that spring 2021 night while Candiace Lay and her boyfriend were in building 7B of the Villages of Hanna Apartment complex on Fort Wayne’s southeast side.
The sounds of gunshots sent Lay and her boyfriend running deeper into the apartment to take cover. That’s when Lay’s boyfriend turned around to find her collapsing to the floor.
She had been shot in the head.
Tuesday, the 22-year-old man accused of firing that fatal shot to the mother of three is set to stand trial in Allen Superior Court.
Jamarion Thomas, who claims he fired shots during the gun battle in self-defense, is charged with murder and reckless homicide as well as two counts of criminal recklessness and a count of using a firearm in the commission of an offense.
Since his arrest, Thomas has been sitting at the Allen County Jail awaiting his trial, which has been canceled four times previously, according to his attorney, Robert Cliff Scremin. Alexander Newman will also serve as defense attorney.
Allen County’s Chief Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille and Chief Counsel Tesa Helga are set to represent the state.
The gun battle began around 12:45 a.m. on May 22, 2021 and even Thomas’s mother, Tilonda Thomas, ended up critically wounded, according to Allen Superior Court documents.
One witness said in court documents a lot of people were outside in the parking lot of the complex partying just prior to the shooting when things started to “get heated.”
At some point, Thomas arrived with a rifle.
Several men yelled to Thomas when he got to the parking lot, asking why he had to bring the rifle around children, court documents said. Thomas’s mother lived at the apartment complex at the time, according to court documents, and told the men:
”He is my son. I will handle it.”
One of the men told Thomas, according to court documents, “We got seven guns on you, you know?”
Thomas went inside the apartment building, court documents said. He then came back outside and said, “Who you going to shoot?”
One of the men outside raised a handgun and started to fire, according to court documents, so Thomas went back into his apartment on the south side of the lot, opposite 7B where Lay and her boyfriend lived, and retrieved his rifle.
Thomas fired back.
Then, Thomas ran out of ammunition and returned to his apartment. There, he found his mother suffering from four gunshot wounds.
Thomas’s mother spent months recovering, according to his attorney.
When Jamarion Thomas was interviewed by police, he declared he returned fire in self-defense. An AR-15 style rifle was found in his apartment, court documents said.
Evidence is likely to focus on the hundreds of shell casings found in the parking lot and where they were found. Thomas’s attorney said that to his knowledge, no one has ever been charged in the shooting of Tilonda Thomas.
The trial is scheduled to last four days.