Tuesday, October 23, 2012

'Everyone had an opinion, basically...'

Witnesses recall horror of gun attack
Accused murderer Ricky Cummings
Waco – When Investigator Ken Reeves arrived at the scene of the double homicide that left two other men bleeding, badly wounded, he could see a big, 4-door sedan with its windows shot out, riddled with bullets.

A Family Violence specialist, he doubles as a hostage negotiator for the Waco Police Department, but in March of 2011, he was K-9 officer who happened to be on patrol very near the Lakewood Villas Apartments at 1100 N. 6th St. in east Waco.

Lead defense counsel Russ Hunt, Sr.
Two men seated in the back seat of the car were clearly dead, he testified at the capital murder trial of Ricky Cummings, a 23-year-old man who has been indicted along with 3 others for the attack that took place at the subsidized housing project.

It didn't take him long to find two other men wounded in the fusillade that had occurred only minutes previously.

He recalled that people in the doorway of Apartment 81 were “visibly upset about what was going on, and I could see a blood trail leading back up in there.”

Inside, he saw a 10-year-old girl lying unconscious on the floor, her mouth and throat choked with vomitous material she regurgitated when the high velocity rounds from a semi-automatic assault rifle penetrated the wall of the building, then plowed into the couch where she sat. “You could see the bullet hole in the wall...

“It scared her so badly she vomited,” he told the 7-woman, six-man jury of white, middle-aged citizens, 12 of whom will eventually decide if Mr. Cummings is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and then pass a sentence on him of either death by lethal injection, or life imprisonment with no possibility of parole.

“Her mouth was filled with it, and she aspirated some of it,” he said. He and others went right to work clearing the child's airways. Another person gave the girl mouth to mouth resuscitation to revive her while he continued to follow the blood trail to the bathroom of the apartment, where he found two men, one bleeding from a serious wound to his thigh, the other from a gunshot wound to his arm.

After he organized a clear path for the emergency medical technicians to load the wounded men, he went back to work outside establishing control of the crime scene, making sure the dozens of spent cartridges were left undisturbed, persuading a hysterical woman to back away from the body of one of the deceased victims in the car's back seat.

Quywandrell Franklin, 20, clung to the lifeless body of Tyrus Sneed, an ex-boyfriend who had just left her mother's apartment after walking her home from an impromptu date where they “smoked a black.”

A black is a cigar sold in convenience stores, so called for its brand name, Black & Mild. Asked by a defense attorney if it contains drugs – marijuana – she responded by saying, “You can buy it when you're 18.”

The courtroom erupted in laughter while the jurors sat with stoic expressions. Even the attorneys and the judge smiled.

The entire gallery is made up of friends and family of either the victims, or the accused, Mr. Cummings. The only other spectators are representatives of various local media outlets.

The courtroom is divided down the middle, the rows of church-like hardwood pews labeled “Family,” and a single row in the extreme rear labeled “Media.”

The arrangement rather resembles the seating at a funeral ceremony, with some stark differences between the culture of white and black people.

A grandmother of Keenan Huber, the other man who died in the attack, testified that her grandson was 15 years of age before she discovered he is kin to her family. Her son, she said, learned of his paternity at a late date. Keenan, who was known as “Locky” because of his extra curly hair, which he often wore in braids, became an adopted son when his mother gave up her parental rights.

Janice Mathews is proprietor of Dorsey-Keats Funeral Home, an east Waco establishment which operates a private cemetery for its clients.

A prosecutor showed her a photograph of her grandson made shortly before his demise. The background and his clothing are a deep shade of blood red. He is wearing a black baseball cap.

The same prosecutor furtively displayed “State's Exhibit 219,” and asked her if it, too, is a photo of her grandson.

“You don't have to look at it for long if you don't want to,” he said, shielding the sight of the photo from the vision of the jurors.

She glanced at it quickly, and said, “Yes. That's him.”

She recalled how, at the age of 20, he visited with her one day in the home where he still lived with she and her husband following his graduation from high school.
He said, “Grandma, when your number is up, you have to go...He wasn't afraid to die.”

Two van loads of men wearing red shirts emblazoned with sergeants' stripes, campaign ribbons, and winged insignia marked “Combat” arrived and “stayed way after dark,” she recalled. Each man wore a black golf cap.

A fifth defendant, Tyree Edwards Richards, 23, was released from indictment when defense attorneys convinced Judge Ralph T. Strother that telephone records proved he was not present at the time of the murder.

Young Ms. Franklin told lead prosecutor Michael Jarrett that since she has moved to Dallas, where she works in a fast food restaurant and is planning a college career, she feels much safer and more secure.

She recalled screaming “Ty!” when she heard the reports of the semi-automatic weapon fire that exploded outside her mother's apartment.

“I just fell to the ground and started screaming. I said, 'Mama, I got to go get him.'”

That's where Investigator Reeves found her when he arrived at the scene of the shooting, her arms wrapped around her ex-boyfriend, screaming and crying.

A veteran of many such shooting incidents at Lakeside Villas, a prosecutor asked the detective how large a crowd he discovered when he arrived.

He looked pensive, pondered for a long moment about it, then said in a judicious tone of voice, “It was a big crowd.”

“Everyone had an opinion, basically...”


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  2. Kinda good details and sad story...However, you cannot say such a generalization as differences between whites and blacks. this is not all black people...This is the very names mentioned here and it happened in a poor, broken neigborhood of the ghetto. Not every black person in the world lives in very, very, old subsidized housing projects of Lakewood Villas or acts like the main individuals in the courtroom on trial.

    That comment said a lot, it was very ignorant but it shows how you think. Not insulting but just reflective. You'll never make the big journalism game using such vague and simple minded thoughts. I know a lot of blacks who are nothing like the people described here. We are all one, created in the image of God. Open your mind, travel more, etc.

  3. The difference is that these people are honest enough to frankly and forthrightly state such a thing. Many people are not. The big journalism game doesn't impress me all that much. The stories are all about the same size. I know the people are, no matter the color of their skin or the nature of their culture.

    I followed up with Mrs. Mathews and asked her if she doesn't think that such an attitude - this business of when your number comes up, you have to go - reflects the thinking of soldiers. She readily agreed. Then I asked her if it doesn't remind her of the kind of stories the people who were old timers when we were coming up used to tell us. Stories about hard times. We agreed that these are the hardest of hard times, that we've never seen it quite like this, but heard a lot about it from previous generations.

    The difference to which I was referring is this. I don't think my people - white people - could remain calm and sanguine enough to sit down together at the bar of justice and behave as well as these folks have.

    I am impressed. I'm going to tell you something, Mr. Anonymous. Don't you worry about the game I play, or where I travel. I don't think you know me. Not at all. You see, I'm not writing about every black person. I'm writing about these black persons because they are the ones who are having to live on in the face of this kind of terror. - The Legendary