Police: Witness to homicide heard gunshot, saw man run from cab

Man shot driver, hid gun at his house, police say

ariquelmy@ledger-enquirer.comSeptember 27, 2012 

A witness to Columbus' most recent homicide heard the fatal gunshot and saw a man run from the idling cab in which police later found Byron Keith Brown still strapped in his seat belt, a detective testified Thursday in Columbus Recorder's Court.

Sandy Mitchell, 22, faces charges of murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection with the Sunday shooting of Yellow Cab driver Brown, 58. Police say Mitchell shot Brown at Shelby Street and Munson Drive, robbed the cab driver and then ran some 300 yards to his house, where he hid a gun holding ammo that matched a shell casing found inside Brown's cab.

Arrested Monday on Fort Benning, Mitchell appeared Thursday in Recorder's Court and pleaded not guilty. He's being held without bond.

Police responded to the scene of the shooting, which happened early Sunday, about 4 a.m.

"Mr. Brown was seat-belted in the driver's seat and the car was still idling," detective Amanda Hogan said.

The bullet entered Brown's head on the rear right side, exiting his left eye, the detective said. It appeared he'd been shot by someone in the backseat.

Forty dollars was found on Brown at the time, and more cash was found during a later search, Hogan said.

Police don't know how much money Brown had on him at the time of the shooting, and believe he was robbed of some money.

Officers' investigation into the shooting led them to the Motel 6 on Victory Drive.

Hogan said a man who gave his name as "Darrell" took a Yellow Cab early Sunday from the motel to Phenix City and was to return to the motel.

"That was the last time Yellow Cab heard from Mr. Byron Brown," Hogan said.

After checking the motel's surveillance video, officers approached Room 234, where "Darrell" was staying. Another man in the room said he'd been at the motel since 10 p.m., Hogan said.

The man knew Mitchell and, since he once stayed with him and his wife at the Munson Drive home, was able to take police to the address.

A picture of Mitchell was put in a photo-lineup for the motel clerk, Hogan said, who immediately identified Mitchell as the man who'd asked for the cab.

One anonymous caller said she was near Brown's cab when he was shot.

She told police she later saw a black man get out of the cab and run toward the direction of Mitchell's home, Hogan said.

"She heard a pop," Hogan said. "She didn't realize what it was at the time."

Mitchell's wife gave police permission to search their Munson Drive home, where they found a .380-caliber Lorcin pistol underneath a backyard air-conditioning unit, the detective said.

It had one bullet in the chamber and five in the magazine.

That ammunition matched a shell casing found inside the cab, Hogan said.

Mitchell admitted to police he rode in Brown's cab that night, but paid and left him once he returned to his Munson Drive home, Hogan testified.

Later that night, Mitchell heard a noise from outside.

He saw the cab still in the road and went to investigate, the detective said.

That's when he saw Brown slumped over in the cab with blood on his chest.

"We asked if he tried to render aid or call 911 and he said that's not how he is," Hogan said.

During their investigation, police learned that Mitchell had been discharged from the Army for having drugs in his system, the detective said.

"Ever since then, he hasn't been the same," Hogan said she was told. "Sandy has been talking about setting up robberies since he hadn't had a job."

Mitchell declined to speak at Thursday's hearing.

Senior Judge Michael Cielinski found probable cause to bind the case over to Muscogee County Superior Court.

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