First a gunshot, and then a “glug, glug, glug” noise, like a full gallon of milk being poured out.
Those are the sounds a witness in the murder trial of Kevin Babe “Cali” Henderson described hearing when Chad Herring was shot through the back of the head Nov. 12, 2014 while sitting right next to him in the front seat of a Chevrolet Impala.
The witness was Steve Phillips, who testified he was driving the car belonging to Herring’s girlfriend, with Herring in the front passenger’s seat and Henderson in the back seat behind Herring. They were on St. Marys Road at its intersection with Buena Vista Road and other streets, a spot known as the “Spider Web.”
They had just left a Middleton Place home where Phillips lived with his parents. The men had been traveling around town much of the day, buying alcohol and switching out friends’ cars. Herring had let Phillips drive his girlfriend’s car because he anticipated being too intoxicated to drive, Phillips said: “Chad loves to drink.”
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Phillips had started off that day driving another friend’s car as he and his buddy Joseph Bellinger went to a job orientation at a local foundry. Afterward they went to a home belonging to Bellinger’s mother, where Herring came to meet them, Phillips said.
Driving the Impala, Herring followed as Phillips returned the car he’d been using, then Phillips drove the Impala back to the home of Bellinger’s mother, he said.
Henderson called and asked the men to pick him up on Steam Mill Road, after which they stopped by a liquor store to buy rum, then went to Herring’s home to drink, Phillips said. Later they borrowed money from Herring’s father to buy more alcohol.
They visited some other friends before Phillips’ girlfriend called and asked him to pick her up on Evergreen Street. She was getting in the car there when Henderson saw two teenagers walking by, one wearing a black bandana.
That color is associated with the Gangster Disciples gang, Phillips said, and Henderson was associated with the Crips gang. Perceiving a violation of gang protocol, Henderson pulled out a gun and started firing at the two before he and his companions climbed back into the Impala and sped away, the witness said.
They stopped to buy cigarettes and beer, and then went to where Phillips lived on Middleton Place, he said. While they were there, Herring’s sister called and asked her brother to check on her home nearby, because the burglar alarm was going off. Herring and Henderson then left in the Impala to do that, he said.
When they returned, Herring looked shaken, Phillips said. “I have never seen Chad look like this,” he testified, describing it as “fear” and the look of someone who’s about to cry, but holding it in.
Phillips volunteered to drive again as he, Herring and Henderson left his parents’ house, and that’s how he came to be in the driver’s seat at St. Marys Road and Buena Vista Road.
The gunshot he heard there was Henderson shooting Herring through the head, he said. When he turned to Herring, he saw his friend sitting upright in the passenger’s seat with blood pouring out of his face, making the “glug, glug, glug” sound he heard.
He looked back at Henderson, who pointed the gun at him and told him to keep driving, he said.
He drove to the dead end of Roosevelt Street near Brewer Elementary School and stopped, frozen. “Come on, brother, we got to go,” he said to Herring, whose body had slumped forward when Phillips hit the brakes.
His door opened, and there stood Henderson, who leaned in, put the car in park and pushed Herring upright, he said.
“I should kill you,” he said Herring told him.
“Do what you got to do,” he replied.
Instead they started walking toward an open lot, where Phillips ran as he called friends on his cell phone for a ride. Henderson caught up with him, asked whom he was calling, and demanded a ride, too, he said.
A friend picked them up, dropped Henderson off on Steam Mill Road and took Phillips home, where he told his girlfriend what had happened. Later Henderson came by and threatened to kill him and his family if he told anyone about the homicide, he said.
Around 11:45 p.m., a police officer working a burglary detail came across the Impala, its dome light still on. Detective Teresa Hudgens testified that she was in plainclothes and an unmarked vehicle, so she called for patrol officers to join her. They found Herring’s body, blood still dripping from the face, she said. A bullet hole was in the Impala’s front windshield.
Police questioned Phillips the next day and again on Nov. 20, 2014. Initially he did not tell investigators the truth. “I was scared,” he said.
So why was he testifying in open court?
“I just want justice for my friend,” he said. “To this day, I can’t get over it…. I don’t want my friend gone with no justice, no nothing.”
He’s still shocked at the abrupt shooting preceded by no obvious provocation, he said:
“I don’t know why it happened…. I still don’t know, to this day.”