A homicide detective's surprise revelation Wednesday that a North Little Rock teenager on trial in a first-degree murder case is currently under investigation in a killing in "another jurisdiction" led to a brief closed hearing mid-trial.
North Little Rock Detective Michael Gibbons' disclosure, made outside the presence of jurors, led Circuit Judge Leon Johnson to clear the courtroom of spectators and nonessential court personnel to allow closer questioning of the 25-year police veteran by prosecutors and defense attorneys for Shaquan Markell Thompson.
The closed session, a rarity in criminal trials, lasted about six minutes before the judge reopened the proceedings.
Thompson, 18, is one of two men charged in the January 2018 slaying of Allen Ray McGuire, 58, who was shot to death while visiting a friend at the apartments at 5120 Velvet Ridge Road.
Prosecutors Erin Driver and Jennings Morgan say McGuire was killed after he angered Thompson's co-defendant, 20-year-old Typaris Rome Johnson, when McGuire complained the younger man was hogging the marijuana cigar, known as a "blunt," that the four were sharing. The defendants are being tried separately. Thompson is the first to stand trial.
With no physical evidence linking Thompson to the killing and no witness to the shooting, prosecutors have made a circumstantial case to the jury, based on the testimony of the friend, 26-year-old Courtney Hunt, who said Thompson was there. She testified that she left the living room when Johnson pulled a pistol on McGuire, saying she was in the bedroom with her five children and two others she had been baby-sitting when the shooting started.
Those two children, siblings Ralexia Smith and Clenton Withers, both said they saw Thompson taking a pistol into the living room immediately before gunfire broke out.
Jurors will decide the case without hearing directly from Thompson. Prosecutors finished putting on their case Wednesday, and Thompson's attorney, Bill James, rested without calling any witnesses. Closing arguments are scheduled for 9:30 a.m. today.
For the past two days, James has argued that authorities were so focused on convicting his client that they deliberately overlooked a potential suspect -- a man who might not even exist -- known only as KD.
Hunt initially told police that KD, not Thompson, was with Johnson when McGuire was killed. She recanted that statement almost immediately to say that Thompson and Johnson were together when McGuire was shot.
James said police continued to ignore the possibility that KD could be the second gunman, even after one of the weapons used in the killing was found at the home of another teen four months after McGuire's death, about a month after Thompson and Johnson were jailed.
The chain of events that led Gibbons to disclose the ongoing murder investigation began with James pressing Gibbons to explain to jurors how police found the gun, believed to belong to co-defendant Johnson, and what investigators did to explore the KD angle.
An objection by prosecutors led to a whispered bench conference between the lawyers, and then the judge sent jurors out of the courtroom to allow easier questioning of Gibbons.
With the jurors gone, and James complaining that Gibbons had not been fully answering his questions, the detective explained that he had been trying to be careful about what he said about other investigations involving Thompson and Johnson.
Gibbons testified that the two were responsible for "several" drive-by North Little Rock shootings around the time of McGuire's death, done in "retaliation" for the then-recent slaying of another teenager by North Little Rock police.
Thompson was a friend of 17-year-old Charles Edward "CJ" Smith Jr., who was killed by North Little Rock police after pulling a gun on the officers who had stopped the car he was riding in about two weeks after McGuire's death. Authorities deemed that officer-involved shooting to be justified, and a video of the incident was released to the public.
Thompson and Johnson have not been charged with any other crimes, and James told the judge that he should have been told about those allegations ahead of trial.
Gibbons said James' questioning had also gotten close to forcing him disclose the other homicide investigation, a probe that even prosecutors had not known about. Gibbons said that he could not say anything further without jeopardizing that inquiry, which led to the judge further emptying the courtroom.
Undisclosed to jurors but revealed in pretrial proceedings is that Thompson is known to police over his reported association with the North Little Rock street gang and rap group New Money New Nature, which is linked to the Black Disciples.
Police said they have collected rap videos that show Thompson, with others, flashing gang signs associated with the Black Disciples, holding a gun and apparently smoking marijuana.
Thompson came to the attention of police around the time that Smith was killed as investigators gathered information about a violent dispute between the New Money gang and rival gang GWAP (Grind With A Purpose) that involved a series of shootouts on Maple Street in January 2018.
Prosecutors also revealed in pretrial proceedings that Thompson has juvenile convictions for aggravated robbery and robbery in Tarrant County, Texas.
Thompson's father died when Thompson was 9, and his mother, who lives in Texas, sent him to live with her mother in North Little Rock after he got into trouble with the law in Texas.
In February 2018, a North Little Rock High School student was arrested on campus with a gun. Kyrin Lebron explained that he had the weapon to protect himself after he had been targeted in at least one drive-by shooting. School officials told police that they knew Lebron had been feuding with fellow student Thompson.
Police said Lebron was known to hang out with members of a North Little Rock offshoot of the Southside Piru gang, who call themselves the Gutta Boy gang, which was known to be feuding with New Money New Nature.
Lebron pleaded guilty to possession of a handgun on school property in April 2018 in exchange for a three-year prison sentence.
Metro on 07/25/2019
Print Headline: Courtroom in Little Rock cleared after teen said to be suspect in 2nd killing