An Akron man saw an opportunity to take out his enemy, opened the door to a convenience store and unloaded his gun, shooting and killing a man he’d hated since middle school.
Or an Akron man saw his enemy and that he had a gun — and unloaded his own gun to prevent being shot himself.
These were the explanations offered by an assistant Summit County prosecutor and a defense attorney Tuesday during their opening statements in Devon Williams’ murder trial.
“This was murder,” Assistant Prosecutor Amanda Hall told jurors.
“This is self-defense — all the way,” countered attorney Michael Goldberg.
Williams, 22, is the second person being tried for murder and claiming self-defense in Summit County since a new state law became effective that put the burden on prosecutors and not defense attorneys. Prosecutors now must prove a defendant wasn’t justified in using deadly force.
Andre Warren, 28, of Akron was convicted by a jury last month of murder and other offenses after claiming self-defense in a July 1 double shooting that left one man dead and another injured. He will be sentenced May 20.
Williams, 22, is accused of shooting and killing Shawn Prude, 20, on Nov. 20 and firing shots at another man who was unharmed. The shooting happened at Family Food & Deli, a convenience store on South Arlington Street near Wilbeth Road.
Williams is charged with murder, attempted murder, felonious assault and carrying a concealed weapon, with several of the charges including gun specifications. His jury trial in Summit County Common Pleas Judge Christine Croce’s courtroom is expected to last through Friday.
Like in the Warren trial, Williams and the man he shot and killed had bad blood going back many years. And, also similar to the Warren trial, the shooting was captured on surveillance video.
Hall, who is trying the case with Assistant Prosecutor Joe Dangelo, said Prude and Lamarcus Thomas, his friend, drove to Family Food & Deli about 10 a.m. She said Prude had a gun on his lap in the car.
Hall said Williams was in the store when Prude and Thomas pulled up. She paused a surveillance video that showed Williams smile when he saw Prude. The video then showed Williams walk to the door, crouch underneath signs and start shooting.
Thomas ran and wasn’t harmed, while Prude fled but collapsed on the street and died.
“There is no question who pulled the trigger,” Hall said. “He pulled that trigger 14 times at somebody in a car with the door still closed.”
Several of Prude’s family members sobbed in court when they saw the video of the shooting.
Goldberg, a Cleveland attorney retained by Williams’ family, said his client didn’t go to the store to ambush Prude.
“The only reason he pulled his gun out was because he had the reasonable belief he was going to be ambushed himself,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg said Prude robbed Williams twice and — a month before the shooting — assaulted Williams in front of witnesses, putting a gun to his chest and only stopping when someone intervened. After this, he said, Williams moved, returning for the first time on Nov. 20.
Goldberg said Williams was visiting a friend and went to the store to buy a cigar. He said Williams saw Prude and Thomas pull up and park right outside of the door, blocking his only means of escape from the small store. He said Williams saw that Prude had a gun and watched Thomas get out of the car with something in his hand, which turned out to be his phone.
“Was Shawn there to attack my client? I don’t know,” Goldberg said. “To my client, it sure seemed like it.”
Goldberg played a cellphone video of Thomas and Prude on the way to the store that shows the two of them listening to music and dancing. It also shows a gun on Prude’s lap.
Stephanie Warsmith can be reached at 330-996-3705, firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter: @swarsmithabj.