Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jurors, judge escorted to cars under armed guard

Judge Ralph T. Strother escorted to his vehicle 

Powder keg of anger awaits a spark in capital murder trial

Waco – Judge Ralph T. Strother had a hell of a hard-working Monday on the 19th District Criminal Court bench.

When it was over, a phalanx of armed guards walked him to his pickup - because they felt it was necessary.

Accused capital murderer Ricky Cummings
The McLennan County Courthouse bristled with officers bent on unprecedented security as rival crowds of relatives of an accused capital murderer confronted those of two victims cut down and killed in an ambuscade fired in March of 2011.

Numerous verbal altercations and smoldering near-riot conditions prevailed in the the third floor rotunda outside the courtroom during the morning session.

Surprisingly, prosecutors spent most of the first day of the capital murder trial of Ricky Cummings eliciting testimony about another killing that took place nearly a year earlier, in a completely different east Waco location.

News cameramen stand by, awaiting interesting footage
Though Mr. Cummings, who is 23, and three other young men are indicted for the murders of the two men in the parking lot at Lakewood Villas, 1100 N. 6th St., in March of 2011, it was the shooting death of Emil Bowers III on April 8, 2010, in an east Waco park many blocks distant that occupied the attention of witnesses throughout most of the day.

The motive for the killing of Tyrus Sneed, 17, and Keenan Hubert, 20, is thought to have been revenge for the shooting of Mr. Bowers the previous year.

Two other men suffered severe gunshot wounds, but somehow managed to survive the attack described as an ambush while the four of them sat in a Mercury Marquis in the parking lot of the subsidized housing project in March of 2011.

Deputies and Court Administrators in security effort
As Special Crimes Detective Michael Walsh described the ongoing ad hoc investigation of Mr. Bowers' death by his mother Sheila Bowers and a man named Freddie Hilliard, members of Mr. Cummings' family sat stone-faced. The detective, who has 24 years experience, explained that many of the leads and suspicions furnished by the pair were inconclusive. Others were completely false.
Jurors stared at numerous photos projected on a screen that depicted Mr. Bowers dressed in a bright red polo shirt and a black golf cap.

One photo focused on Mr. Bowers balancing a stockless “street sweeper” shotgun with a pistol grip on his shoulder. In another photo, he grinned while flashing a gang sign with his right hand with the index finger folded, middle, ring and pinky extended chest high.

Sixteen young men posed at his funeral dressed in identical red shirts with epaulets, sergeants' chevrons, winged patches over one breast pocket that have the word “combat” embroidered on them, and a row of service ribbons over the other. Each man in the group portrait is flashing the same gang sign.

Asked what such sign language usually denotes, Detective Walsh said, in a single-word answer, “Drugs.”

As a prosecutor questioned him, the detective described several avenues of investigation Mrs. Bowers and her friend suggested, only to learn that their accusations were unfounded. He rejected the adjective “forceful” as an accurate description of the victim's mother, choosing the description “very demanding” as more accurate.

She was often frustrated in her efforts, but eventually, said the detective, a Mr. Stephen Peace was charged and indicted for the shooting of Mr. Bowers.

In one case, he related, the couple set up a meeting at an area church using a member of the clergy as a go-between.

Waco Police Officer Colter waits to testify
When a three-year veteran patrolman named Officer Colbert took the stand, he testified that he was the second officer to arrive at the scene of the shooting of the four young men at Lakewood Villas in March 2011.

He described a scene in which the assailants sprayed the “suspect vehicle,” a gray four-door Mercury Marquis sedan, riddling it with dozens upon dozens of bullet holes. When the projector depicted two young men slumped in the back seat, their bodies covered with blood and the windows of the car shattered, its sheet metal skin looking like Swiss cheese, most of the women seated with their family members began to sob hysterically.

As he and other police officers cordoned off the crime scene to preserve such evidence as the dozens of spent cartridges expelled by semiautomatic weapons in the attack, he said, several hundred bystanders quickly assembled.

Angered, they began to fight following numerous arguments, the causes of which he said, he was unsure. He described a near-riot of what had turned into an unruly mob of an estimated two to three hundred persons. The mood of the crowd was "very emotional," according Officer Colbert.

“We seriously considered getting out the tear gas and fire hoses to clear that crowd away from the crime scene,” he recalled.

As Judge Strother released the jurors to return for a resumption of testimony at 8:30 this morning, he ordered the gallery to remain seated until bailiffs and security guards in the parking lot reported each juror safely in their cars and gone, headed out of the downtown area.

Criminal District Attorney Abel Reyna maintaining courtroom presence
Then he had deputies and Waco police officers escort first the relatives of the victims from the courtroom, down the stairs, and out of the building, before he then had the bailiffs escort Mr. Cummings' relatives outside - and off the Courthouse property. 


  1. These guys should be singled out for their actions but they do not represent all black people. Never did and thank God they never will. They are a bunch of punks and wanna-be's who unfortunately grew up really tough/harsh without fathers or parents/good role models around but still their actions, I cannot agree with ever. Such a sad ordeal especially since I'm sure children were around and witnessed it, along with the innocent bystanders around. How about the apt owners make it look attractive, safer, viable, and so businesses can evolve there to create jobs, etc. The playing field just needs to be leveled more. Maybe I'm getting off track some but it's all relative still.

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