A jury comprised of 10 women and four men are tasked with determining whether 21-year-old Tequan Jamal Watson acted in self-defense or malice in a shooting incident on Feb. 28, 2018 on Sandy Beach Road that took the life of 16-year-old Paul Damiano and wounded Devan Wooding.
The first day of a scheduled three-day trial on Tuesday in Halifax County Circuit Court saw prosecutors Tracy Q. Martin and Anna Bowen paint an entirely different picture than that of defense attorney Jason Anthony.
Watson is charged with the first-degree murder of Damiano, malicious assault of Wooding and two counts of use of firearm in the commission of a felony.
Bowen told the jury Wooding was found on the side of the road in the eastbound lane of Highway 58 at approximately 11 p.m. with a gunshot wound to the arm.
At the same time approximately 200 yards west, deputies located Watson, who told them men in black hoods came out of the woods along Sandy Beach Road and fired shots at them.
Deputies driving up Sandy Beach Road subsequently found Damiano lying at the rear bumper of a vehicle dead from gunshot wounds.
In subsequent statements to authorities, Watson said no one had a weapon, Bowen continued.
“He insisted he didn’t have a firearm,” Bowen said the defendant told authorities.
Wooding, initially mum on who shot him because of fear of reprisal, later broke down on the advice of his mother and 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 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 continued.
Police found 10 shell casings in the road and recovered bullets from the bodies of Wooding and Damiano that linked them to a handgun legally owned by the defendant, according to prosecution evidence.
Captain Mike Womack of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office subsequently interviewed Watson, and when confronted with the evidence, Watson admitted he shot Damiano three times after Damiano pointed a gun at him.
Further investigation revealed Watson had gun residue on his hands, Bowen pointed out.
Anthony, attorney for Watson, countered that prosecutors failed to mention Damiano, Wooding and another young male had “terrorized” the community for some time, engaging in a failed robbery the night before, with the attempted robbery victim managing to escape despite a number of shots being fired at his car.
The failed robbery enraged Damiano and Wooding to the point where they could not stand another failed robbery, Anthony said, and when Watson showed signs of backing out of a planned burglary the next night, Damiano and Wooding “were furious at striking out two nights in a row.”
Vehicles were in the driveway of a supposedly unoccupied house they planned to rob, according to Anthony, causing Watson to have second thoughts about the robbery.
Damiano did have a weapon, an air gun that failed to fire after he pointed it at the defendant that night, according to the defense attorney.
“T.J. (Watson) was not going to do something where people got hurt. They were going to shoot my kid (Watson) and leave him for dead.”
The case should come down to reasonable doubt, and if there is any reasonable doubt, the jury should send him home to his father, Anthony argued.
In opening testimony on Tuesday afternoon, the jury examined footage from three body cams belonging to three deputies who responded to the scene of the shooting that night, Sgt. W. G. Yancey, Cpl. C. J. Yeatts and Deputy Giles Jones.
Footage confirmed the defendant was found unarmed in the median strip of Highway 58 near where Wooding was found wounded.
During cross examination of Cpl. Yeatts, Anthony argued chain of custody issues, telling the court Wooding’s mother came to the spot where her son was found the next day and collected clothing belonging to her son.
Yeatts explained her primary goal that night was first to get help for Wooding and gather items belonging to Wooding such as his cell phone and shoes, before calling investigators to collect other evidence.
Continued testimony in the case is expected to continue Wednesday with closing arguments set for Thursday.