It was supposed to be a fun day of shopping — Barbara Johnson and her daughter had made it out that day to the mall to shop at their favorite store, Rue 21.
Johnson and her daughter were in the checkout line toward the front of the store on July 28, 2018, when they heard the noise that would soon spark panic throughout the mall. At first, Johnson couldn’t tell what it was, until she heard it again.
“I heard a noise, like a popping noise,” she said. “I grabbed my daughter and ran to the back of the store.”
It was the sound of gunshots, as someone opened fire inside Greenwood Mall. The ensuing investigation would lead police to arrest six men in connection with the shooting, and in court Friday the jury heard from Johnson as a witness in the state’s case.
As Johnson heard the shots and turned to run toward the back, she caught a glimpse of someone she said she assumed was the shooter. She described seeing a man in a black shirt with some red markings on it, and described him as having short hair.
While cross-examining her, the defense attorneys sought to distance their clients from the description Johnson gave. Attorney Stephen Geoly pointed to his client, Isaiah Watson, and asked Johnson if the person she saw when she heard the gunshots was his client, and Johnson said he was not.
When attorney Carson Henderson questioned Johnson, she said she didn’t see a gun in the man’s hand, but instead assumed he was the one shooting. Each attorney picked apart Johnson’s testimony in front of the jury, with some cross-examinations being as simple as state Sen. Karl Allen telling Johnson that his client, Shyheim Alston, was wearing a red shirt the day of the shooting, not a black and red shirt.
The jury heard from another witness, a teen who was at Luxor Jewelers in the mall when the shots were fired. She was there shopping for a charm bracelet and was standing at the counter when she heard the shots. She told the jury she saw a man with a raised hand, and though she didn’t see a gun in his hand, she said she saw the flash of what appeared to be a gun firing.
Friday’s last witness was former Greenwood police officer Wes Walker, who was on patrol the day of the shooting. His job was to help secure the scene and make sure everyone was safe, and to help collect what initial information officers could. He spoke with Asia at the jewelry store and recorded the store’s security camera video on his own body camera.
Some of the defense attorneys took issue with Walker’s handling of documenting the surveillance video, while Allen took aim at the thoroughness of Walker’s information-gathering. Walker explained that his job was not to investigate witnesses’ claims in depth, but rather to get their immediate statements and pass on their information to investigators.
Defense attorney Tristan Shaffer used clips of Walker’s body camera video to argue that Asia could not have directly seen the person she described as a shooter from the location she was standing at in the jewelry store. Instead, he argued that it appeared as if she was looking at the man’s reflection in a mirror on the jewelry store’s wall.
Facebook videoThough Judge Brooks Goldsmith cut testimony short Friday, dismissing the jury at about 1:30 p.m., attorneys argued briefly afterward over a video clip that was widely seen on Facebook of a child getting her ear pierced at the mall the day of the shooting.
While 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo argued the clip was of probative value to the state’s arguments, the defense attorneys said the images in the video only serve to upset viewers and provide little in the way of relevant information.
“Nothing about what the solicitor said about what he considers probative is tied to this little girl,” said attorney Charles Grose.
The clip shows the girl getting her ears pierced, interrupted by what sounds like four shots being fired as the camera swings wildly, the people nearby in a panic to get to safety. While Stumbo argued that the chaos of the clip speaks to how the defendants “breached the peace,” Shaffer cited case law that he said establishes that actually breaching the public’s peace isn’t necessary to convict someone on a charge of breach of peace.
Instead, multiple defense attorneys argued the clip was distressing, and would unduly prejudice the jury by having them watch a young girl amid this chaos. The clip could, they argued, cause the jury to have an emotional reaction that could compromise their ability to be impartial.
Goldsmith took the attorneys’ arguments under consideration, and said the trial would resume at 9:30 a.m. Monday.