Jury deliberations began Friday afternoon after murder defendant Queitin Tyler testified in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Tyler said he fired a gun twice in self-defense outside the Halftime Sports Pub on South Main Street in Akron last October after hearing two gunshots near him, but it was only days later that he learned anyone had been killed.
Tyler, facing charges that he assaulted and murdered a Wooster man and wounded another Oct. 20 outside the Firestone Park bar, took the stand Friday morning for nearly an hour in his own defense.
Deliberations will resume early Monday morning. In an unusual move, Judge Alison McCarty had the courtroom doors locked Friday while the jury was in the room, saying she was disturbed by the behavior on Thursday of some of the public onlookers in the room. Tyler’s trial began Monday.
Tyler, 34, who lives in Akron, is charged with murder, felonious assault, illegal possession of a firearm in a liquor premises and carrying a concealed weapon. Prosecutors say Tyler argued with Derrick Comby outside the Halftime Sports Pub and shot Comby and Darian Hardison, both of Wooster. Both men ran, with Comby, 28, surviving and Hardison, 26, dying.
Tyler testified he feared for his life when he got into the quarrel after asking Comby and Hardison for cigarettes. He said the men insulted him and flashed guns at him.
" 'You better get back in the bar. You come back out and I'll pop,' " Tyler said one of the men told him. "Today's society, people get killed over nothing. That's what was going on in my head."
Tyler said he did not call police about the confrontation and did not tell bar security either. He said he went inside the bar, got a gun from a friend, and walked out through the building's only exit, near where Comby and Hardison were. Tyler said his intent was to flash the gun at the two men, not shoot them. As soon as he was outside, Tyler said, "I heard two shots. I shot two shots. ... Yes, I fired twice. I just fired to the right. After that, they was running."
He said he took the gun from his friend because he thought his life was in danger and he couldn't wait for the police to arrive. "I never called the police in my life," he said. "I was thinking about getting out of there best that I could."
He also said he had been drinking vodka before he got to the bar and was "tipsy" at the time of the shooting.
Tyler said he turned himself in to police days later after being told someone had been shot to death at the bar that night.
Tyler said he didn't tell police then that he acted in self-defense. "I was waiting to go to trial to tell my story," he said.
Prosecutors painted a picture of Tyler coming out of the bar "guns a'blazing" because he felt disrespected by Comby and Hardison.
"I don't think he intended to kill Darion," Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said. "I think he intended to kill Derrick Comby."
"This was about disrespect. This was a senseless death," said Baumoel, adding that the dispute also was "idiotic, over a cigarette."
Defense attorney Larry Whitney asked jurors why the prosecution never raised the issue of another gun being found at the feet of Hardison, saying that gun doesn't fit into the prosecution's theory of the case. Whitney said that after jurors review the evidence they will find that Tyler acted in self-defense and there is reasonable doubt on the charges against his client.
Detectives identified people at the bar at the time of the shooting from a surveillance video and interviewed them to determine who the shooter was.
On Thursday, prosecutors played an audio recording of Tyler’s interview with detectives after he turned himself in Oct. 27. Tyler claimed in the interview that he was with his girlfriend and wasn’t in the bar at the time of the shooting.
Prosecutors also played a surveillance video that showed people entering the bar before and after the shooting, with Detective Ron Kennedy narrating.
In the key part of the video, Kennedy said Tyler can be seen putting his left hand into his pocket, grabbing a gun and extending his arm as he exited the bar. The detective said Tyler then re-entered the bar with his left hand still in his pocket.
Larry Whitney pressed Kennedy about the video and what can been seen in it.
“It doesn’t appear to be a gun to me,” Whitney said. “You can’t see what it is.”
“It appears to be a gun to me,” Kennedy responded.
Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or email@example.com. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ