A Halifax County Circuit Court jury is expected to decide the fate Friday of 21-year-old Tequan Jamal Watson who stands accused of the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Paul Damiano and the wounding of 20-year-old Devan Wooding that occurred on Feb. 28, 2018.
On Thursday in day three of Watson’s trial, the jury heard the initial statement Watson made to investigator Mike Womack shortly after the shooting incident occurred on Sandy Beach Road.
That statement was in stark contrast to later statements Watson would make to police after Wooding told authorities Watson fired the shots that injured him and left Damiano fatally wounded that night.
Watson, who is facing charges of first-degree murder, malicious assault and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, said in his initial statement to Womack neither he, Damiano nor Wooding was armed that night.
At that time, he told authorities one of two men dressed in black opened fire on them near a house located on Sandy Beach Road.
According to the taped interview, which lasts approximately one hour, Watson said he was driving his cousin’s car and had gone with Wooding to Damiano’s house, and then the three of them drove to a house on Sandy Beach Road to “smoke some weed.”
Watson told Womack in the initial interview he did not have a gun that night, and to his knowledge neither did Wooding or Damiano.
Two men dressed in black approached the trio, with one saying, “Give it up,” with Wooding replying, “Ya’ll for real?” Watson continued.
Gunfire erupted, and Watson said he started to run when he heard the shots.
Watson told Womack he heard groaning like someone had been hit after the gunfire erupted but said he didn’t know if anyone had been hit until Womack told him later.
Prosecutors, in opening arguments, told the jury Watson stuck to his initial story until Wooding, on the advice of his mother, identified Watson as the person who shot him.
Wooding told police that he, Damiano and Watson had conspired to go to a house on Sandy Beach Road, break in and steal some marijuana, according to prosecutor Anna Bowen.
However, plans went awry when the trio disagreed on carrying out the plan, opening statements revealed.
While they were talking about the plan that night on Sandy Beach Road, Wooding said he looked away and looked back to see the defendant point a gun at Damiano and shoot him three times.
Wooding ran off, and the defendant fired at him, wounding him in the arm, Bowen said in her opening argument.
The prosecution provided evidence Thursday that pointed to Watson as the triggerman, with Mary Keehan of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science performing a primer and powder residue test confirming both materials were found on Watson’s hands.
Stephanie Walcott, current Virginia Commonwealth University instructor and former analyst with the Virginia Department of Forensic Science, confirmed bullets recovered from both Damiano and Wooding were matches for a .40-caliber semi-automatic handgun identified as belonging to Watson.
Watson led investigators to the gun several days after the shooting incident, according to the investigator’s testimony.
Representing Watson, Richmond attorney Jason Anthony pointed to self defense as a possible motive, stipulating on Tuesday Watson had a handgun that night.
But he also pointed to evidence presented in the opening statement that Damiano had an air gun, something he said investigators initially overlooked.
On Thursday, Anthony pointed to evidence Wooding and his mother had returned to the scene of the shooting the next day and gathered items such as clothing Wooding wore that night.
Anthony asked Womack if it were possible they picked up something they didn’t give to investigators.
“It’s possible,” Womack answered.
Anthony noted it was possible someone from the Wooding family went to the scene and did not turn over everything they found to investigators, including a handgun.
“Have you ever seen a mother cover for her son?” asked Anthony.
“Yes,” answered Womack.
Anthony, in his opening statement, told the jury Watson tried to back out of a planned burglary of an unoccupied house on Sandy Beach Road when he saw vehicles in the driveway.
Anthony asked Womack if the investigator thought it was suspicious or not suspicious that Watson didn’t flee from authorities the night of the shooting but remained at the scene with a car available for escape at his disposal.
He also asked Womack if the investigator thought it was suspicious or not suspicious Watson led investigators to the firearm used in the shooting later after authorities didn’t recover it the night of the incident.
“In the middle,” Womack answered to each query.
The trial continued with further testimony on Thursday, with closing arguments expected on Friday.