Probable cause affidavits supporting the arrest of four men in connection to an Aug. 11 homicide at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia describe a prearranged drug sale in a campus parking lot that became an apparent ambush when a gunman fired on a vehicle with three people inside.
One of the men in the vehicle, 21-year-old Southern Arkansas University senior Joshua Keshun Smith, was killed. Another student was wounded. The affidavits were released to the public for the first time Tuesday after a judge had initially sealed files in the case.
In the four identical affidavits, a Southern Arkansas University Police Department detective, Sgt. Bret McMahen, wrote that based on witness interviews, Smith had arranged over Snapchat to sell marijuana to a man. Smith asked two others, Lucas Sharp and Alex Copeland, to accompany him in his vehicle to meet the individual because he did not know him well, police were told.
When the three men found the prospective buyer in the parking lot, the man got into their vehicle. Smith gave him a box containing the marijuana, which the man examined. The man told Smith he needed to get his money, saying he did not bring it, and left, according to the affidavit.
As soon as the man exited the vehicle, another individual ran up to the driver's side window and started shooting, police were told.
Copeland told police he thought the gunman fired three times, then twice, though he said he was unsure. Smith was struck by gunfire, along with Sharp, who was seated on the front passenger side of the vehicle, according to the affidavit.
Smith put the vehicle in reverse and sped backward, but the vehicle struck a light standard, police reported.
With the vehicle stopped, Copeland jumped out and ran away. He turned and saw Sharp following behind him, stumbling and walking because of his injuries, according to the affidavit. Copeland told police he realized Sharp had been hit and Smith was "in bad shape," according to the affidavit.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, the university administration said Smith had been killed and a second student had been hospitalized, but prior to the release of the affidavit the injured student had not been identified as Sharp.
Copeland had been seated in the rear of the vehicle and was uninjured, according to the affidavit. The shooting occurred in the morning hours of the same day fall classes were scheduled to begin.
Earlier this week, authorities released capital-murder charging papers for the four accused men after the filings had been under seal.
Three of the defendants -- Odies Wilson IV, 21; Shaivonn Anthony Robinson, 20; and Le'Kamerin Vaunye Tolbert, 21 -- were students who played or had played for the university's football team. The fourth defendant is Tolbert's half-brother, 20-year-old Quincy Isiah Lewis of Little Rock, who was not a student at the university.
Each of the accused men also has been charged with first-degree battery and aggravated robbery. Each has pleaded innocent. Prosecutors have said they are considering pursuing the death penalty.
Robinson, a Louisiana man whose nickname is Shakey; Tolbert, who is also known as "Kam" and is from Little Rock; and Wilson were all living in Magnolia. They were arrested three days after Smith was killed. Lewis was arrested Aug. 15. Denied bail, they have been jailed ever since.
At their first court appearance Aug. 17, Columbia County Circuit Judge David Talley Jr. issued a gag order forbidding anyone involved in the case from disclosing information about the slaying and sealed the records at the request of prosecutors.
Talley's gag order was appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the Arkansas Press Association on grounds that Talley's order exceeded the court's authority by prohibiting newspapers from writing about the case, which violates both court rules and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The newspaper and press association further contested the legality of the gag order as vague and overly broad, arguing that the order could potentially even affect the Supreme Court justices.
The high court vacated the gag order Sept. 25 in a 7-2 decision, although the contents of the defendants' court files remained under seal by Talley until Nov. 19, after all four men had been arraigned. Technical errors kept the contents of the court record from being released until this week.
After the shooting, police reviewed surveillance video of the incident, spoke to witnesses and interviewed at least three of the accused, who reportedly waived their Miranda rights, based on information contained in the affidavit.
Wilson was questioned by university police on at least two occasions, as well as by Arkansas State Police.
When asked by university police if he knew of the events of the shooting during a voluntary interview Aug. 12, Wilson said he had heard Smith had been shot, according to the affidavit.
Wilson reportedly told police he had bought small amounts of marijuana from Smith twice. Wilson also told police he had advised Smith to "be smart" when doing business, and that without a gun someone would take advantage of Smith, according to the document.
Wilson, Robinson and Tolbert had been in Magnolia until about 10:30 p.m. the day leading up to the shooting, when they left for Little Rock by way of Prescott, Wilson told police. He said he learned of the shooting when he was at home, according to the document. The three returned to Magnolia around 5 p.m. Aug. 11, Wilson reportedly told police.
Robinson and Tolbert also were interviewed, according to the affidavit. Robinson reportedly told police that he, Wilson, Tolbert and a fourth individual unknown to him were in Wilson's vehicle on the night of the shooting. Earlier in the evening, they had been at Wilson's apartment before leaving for Little Rock.
Robinson told police he dropped off Wilson, Tolbert and the stranger -- later identified as Lewis -- in the parking lot and parked behind a science building. He told police he heard gunshots and a few minutes later the three men came running back and got in the car. They drove to Prescott, stopping in Arkadelphia, before finally arriving at Tolbert's mother's house in Little Rock, Robinson said.
Additionally, two witnesses to the shooting told police they saw two individuals dressed in black who were crouching beside a vehicle -- they told police they believed the individuals were playing tricks on friends -- before hearing gunshots.
Another witness told police that while he and his girlfriend were in his parked car west of the scene, he saw two individuals crouched behind a parked truck. Another individual was in the open, talking on a phone, and waved a car over to him, the witness said. A short time later, the two individuals crouched behind the truck sprinted up to the car and one began firing a gun, the witness reported.
Wilson has petitioned the court to be released on bail. He is scheduled for a Dec. 3 bond hearing, which will give prosecutors the opportunity to lay out the evidence against him.
Wilson is the son of 71-year-old Odies Wilson III of Little Rock. A community activist who worked as a point man for Jesse Jackson's 1988 presidential campaign, the senior Wilson is also a former aide to Gov. Jim Guy Tucker and a Democratic candidate for the state House. He was a leader of the state Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission for several years and worked for the city of Little Rock for about 15 years.
The younger Wilson is represented by Little Rock attorney Ron Davis, who has filed a motion to suppress statements his client made to police, claiming that investigators violated Wilson's rights to question him.
Wilson's co-defendants are represented by lawyers provided by the state Public Defender Commission. Little Rock attorneys Robby Golden and Toney Brasuell are representing Tolbert. Lewis' lawyer is Jeff Harrelson of Texarkana, and public defender Katherine Streett is Robinson's attorney.
Streett also represented Rebecca O'Donnell, the Pocahontas woman who killed former Arkansas state Sen. Linda Collins last year. Prosecutors sought the death penalty for O'Donnell, but Streett in August negotiated a 50-year prison sentence for O'Donnell, a former friend and campaign aide of Collins, on charges that also included abuse of a corpse and murder solicitation charges involving her ex-husband.
Attorneys for the defendants did not respond to an email Tuesday requesting comment on the newly released probable cause affidavits.
Smith's death was the first homicide of the year in Columbia County.
On Oct. 19, 32-year-old Sasquanna Young of McNeil was shot to death at a McNeil apartment complex while a second woman, Veronica Smith of Waldo, was wounded. Columbia County sheriff's deputies arrested 31-year-old Jerry Pritchard of Magnolia about an hour later on charges of capital murder, first-degree battery, committing a terroristic act and stalking. Pritchard has not been formally charged and is being held without bail in the Columbia County jail.
Reports from the Arkansas Crime Information Center show there was one homicide in the county last year and three in 2018, with two of the killings in Magnolia. There were no homicides in 2017. Sheriff's deputies investigated two slayings in 2016, and Magnolia logged a single killing in 2015.
The county had no homicides in 2013 and 2014.