Prosecutors say one of two men charged in the 2013 New Year’s Day slaying of Charles Foster Jr. was involved in gunplay just months before the fatal shooting at what was then the Majestic Sports Bar on Cusseta Road.
That suspect, Dequandrea Truitt, 22, was at a Phenix City recreation center on Nov. 19, 2012, when he was confronted by a man who accused Truitt of having shot him about three weeks earlier at Club Cream, another Columbus nightspot, said Senior Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore.
The two got into a fistfight that Truitt was losing when he pulled out a handgun and fired at the other combatant, Moore said. One of the other man’s friends then got a shotgun and fired at Truitt, wounding him in the arm, the prosecutor said.
Everyone fled, but at the scene police found an empty 12-gauge shotgun shell and a spent casing from a .45-caliber pistol, Moore said.
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She wants to introduce evidence of the Phenix City incident during Truitt’s murder trial, set to begin Monday before Superior Court Judge William Rumer. Moore brought the issue up during a hearing Thursday on pretrial motions.
Truitt and Shaquille Porter, 20, each face two counts of murder, seven of aggravated assault and two of using firearms to commit a felony — all stemming from the gunfire that erupted around 2:15 a.m. during a New Year’s celebration at the 2102 Cusseta Road nightclub in Columbus.
City administrators later shut down the nightclub because of its repeated code violations.
Besides Foster, 24, who was hit in the chest and pronounced dead at 3:28 a.m. at Midtown Medical Center, the suspects’ indictment lists six other club patrons as shooting victims.
Friends and family said Foster typically avoided nightclubs, but was persuaded to go out with some companions that New Year’s Eve. He’d had no confrontation with anyone in the crowded bar before the shooting started, and apparently was not a target. He was hit by a stray bullet.
Moore said the earlier Phenix City shooting is relevant because Truitt still wore a bandage on his arm the night Foster died, and witnesses identified him by the bandaged wound. Also .45-caliber bullet casings were found at the Majestic Sports Bar, the same caliber police found where Truitt reportedly fired a handgun in Phenix City, she said.
Though defense attorney Stacey Jackson objected that he lacked sufficient background on the evidence Moore sought to introduce, Rumer decided it was admissible.
The judge did not rule immediately on whether Moore could introduce Truitt’s statements to police Cpl. Joseph Jackson, whom detectives asked to find Truitt after the Foster homicide. Joseph Jackson was acquainted with Truitt, and contacted the suspect about surrendering to investigators.
Joseph Jackson said Truitt over the telephone admitted he was at the club when the shooting started and tried to take cover in another person’s car, but the driver wouldn’t let him in.
On Jan. 6, 2013, Jackson expected Truitt to call him back about surrendering, but instead Truitt called attorney Stacey Jackson to set up a meeting with the police fugitive squad, which took him into custody.
Joseph Jackson said he was perturbed that Truitt hadn’t called, because other officers had asked whether he was hiding Truitt. So when the fugitive squad brought Truitt to police headquarters, Officer Jackson walked up to the Chevy Tahoe the squad used and asked Truitt why he hadn’t called.
He also noticed Truitt had cut his hair, which had been in braids. When he asked why, Truitt said he’d “had to run” because he was wanted for murder. Truitt also told Officer Jackson that he had fired a gun outside the nightclub but not inside, the officer testified.
Stacey Jackson objected to admitting Officer Jackson’s testimony at trial because Truitt already had told fugitive squad officers he did not want to make any statements to police that day. Moore argued that the officer was not interrogating Truitt as part of the homicide investigation.
The officer said he had not intended to question Truitt about the case.
“I really was telling him he put me in a tight spot,” the officer said.