A former LSU student testified Monday that he watched in horror the night of Sept. 14, 2017, as a man made a u-turn in front of a BREC park just north of the Baton Rouge campus and fatally shot a beloved Louie's Cafe employee.

Ka'wesley Brown told the jury at Kenneth Gleason's first-degree murder trial that he could not identify the man who gunned down Donald Smart, but he said the shooter drove off in a red, four-door compact car.

Authorities have said Gleason drove such a red car.

Brown said he and a female friend were talking at BREC's Alaska Street Park in the playground area around 11 p.m. when he noticed the headlights of a car making a u-turn in front of the park. After about two minutes, he heard a gunshot and turned around to see a man standing outside the car get struck by a second shot and fall to the ground.

"He got out to finish shooting," Brown testified as Gleason's trial entered its second week. "I saw him stand over the victim and shoot some more."

Brown said he heard seven or eight shots, and did everything he could to try and save Smart's life before emergency responders arrived. 

East Baton Rouge Parish Coroner Beau Clark testified earlier Monday that Smart suffered eight gunshot wounds.

Brown estimated the shooter was 6 feet tall, which is taller than Gleason, but he also said he considered 6 feet to be an average height.

Gleason, 27, who is White, is standing trial only in the slaying of Smart, who was Black. But the alleged serial killer also is accused of fatally shooting another Black man, Bruce Cofield, two days before Smart was killed. A grand jury indicted him on a second-degree murder charge in Cofield's death.

The coroner testified Saturday that Cofield suffered 15 gunshot wounds.

Gleason is further accused of firing into the home of the only Black family on the block where he lived in the Hickory Ridge subdivision, which is off Coursey Boulevard, the day before Cofield's shooting. He's charged with two counts of attempted second-degree murder in that non-fatal shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive, where Gleason lived with his parents.

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Evidence from the Cofield homicide and the non-fatal shooting on Sandy Ridge Drive also is being introduced at Gleason's trial. He faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if found guilty as charged. The verdict must be unanimous.

Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty against Gleason after consulting with Smart's family.

Authorities have said the three nighttime shootings were apparently random and possibly racially motivated.

Cofield, 59, who was homeless, was shot as he sat at a bus stop on Florida Boulevard near South Acadian Thruway.

Trial testimony last week indicated that a White male got out of his car and shot Cofield, who then rolled into the street. The shooter then stood over Cofield and fired more shots.

The trial will resume Tuesday.

Smart, 49, was killed while walking to his overnight shift at Louie's, where he was a dishwasher.

Authorities have said Gleason is linked to Cofield's killing and the nonfatal shooting through DNA evidence, and to both fatal shootings and the nonfatal incident through ballistics evidence.

The Louisiana State Police Crime Lab determined that the casings recovered from all three shooting scenes were fired from the same 9 mm gun. The firearm used in the shootings has not been found.

Gleason is not charged with a hate crime, but prosecutors have said his cellphone records, which will be used at the trial, contained repeated references to Adolf Hitler and "cleansing."

Gleason's lawyers have said he studied German at LSU. He attended the university for one year starting in the fall of 2012.


Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.