When police found Kimonte Washington dead on the street in the Upper 9th Ward three years ago, the 17-year-old had a bag of Funyuns beside him and had taken a .40-caliber bullet.
Investigators collected video surveillance pointing to Albert Myles, one of Washington’s friends, as the killer. But a defense attorney said Tuesday that Washington’s death was a mistake that came in the midst of a wild shootout.
“Kimonte Washington was his friend, and this was just a terrible accident." Mark Vicknair said. "And for this, Mr. Myles should not be found guilty of murder. He should not spend the rest of his life in prison.”
Washington was killed in the 1900 block of Port Street on Feb. 12, 2015. Myles, now 24, is charged with second-degree murder, which carries a life sentence, and with being a felon in possession of a firearm, which carries a five- to 20-year sentence.
Opening statements on both sides made clear that much of the case will rest on jurors' interpretation of a pair of surveillance videos.
Prosecutors said the chain of events that led to Washington’s death began at a corner store on Almonaster Avenue. Video from the store showed Washington, Myles and another friend, William London, buying soft drinks and Funyuns at about 9 a.m.
Moments later, another camera on Port Street caught video of Myles holding a handgun, walking down the street, with Washington and London behind him.
Then the video captured Myles running back as he shot his gun, Assistant District Attorney Inga Petrovich said. Washington fell and began to bleed to death. A single bullet entered through Washington’s upper neck then pierced a lung and his aorta.
“It is not a video that is easy to look at," Petrovich told jurors in her opening statement. "It is a very graphic video, and it is a video that I promise you will stay in your mind.”
Petrovich said the video showed that Myles made a choice. “He elected to take a gun to that corner ... He elected afterward when he was running back to shoot someone who presumably was his friend and acquaintance,” she said.
Six women wailed in a St. Roch street Thursday morning as officials from the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office collected the body of a young man…
Then Myles let his former friend bleed to death, Petrovich said. “Nobody came to his rescue,” she said.
However, Myles’ attorney said the video and forensic evidence collected from the scene showed a different and “tragic” scenario.
“In most cases, the defendant in the case will deny being there, deny knowing anything about the case, deny having any part in it. This case is a little different,” Vicknair said. “Mr. Myles probably did shoot Kimonte Washington.”
But Vicknair said the video showed all three friends running in the same direction before Myles began shooting “wildly” behind him. He told the jury that about a block away, police found shell casings from another gun. Those casings probably came from another shooter, he said.
It was the state’s burden to prove that Myles was the aggressor and not the victim in the shootout, Vicknair said. He also hinted at the possibility that Washington was the target of a second, unknown shooter.
Days before the fatal shooting, Washington was wounded in his finger by a bullet from an unknown assailant, Vicknair said.
Jurors heard 911 calls from panicked residents on Port Street and testimony from a crime scene investigator as the trial continued on Tuesday. However, Criminal District Court Judge Karen Herman barred the jury from hearing a recorded statement that Myles gave to police.
Outside the presence of the jury, Petrovich called that statement “self-serving” and therefore barred at trial as hearsay. Myles said he was shooting in self-defense in his statement to police, according to his lawyer.
“If he wants to give an accounting of what happened, he needs to testify to that,” Petrovich said.
Vicknair argued that the statement also contained information that was useful to the state.
After watching the tape, Herman sided with prosecutors.
Myles was first charged with second-degree murder in 2016. Earlier this month prosecutors obtained a superseding indictment that added a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
The gun charge alone likely ensures that Myles will face prison time even if the jury acquits him of murder, since his attorney conceded he had a weapon on the day of the shooting.
London, now 20, is also charged as an accessory to second-degree murder.