Police officers testifying in a murder trial Tuesday described the chaos they faced at the Majestic Sports Bar the night Charles Foster Jr. was fatally wounded in a barrage of gunfire.
Patrol Officer Kenneth Culverson said he found 100-200 people outside the 2102 Cusseta Road nightclub on Jan. 1, 2013, with more still streaming out the door. Cars were parked everywhere, and he could not get coherent answers from any of the bystanders who ran up to him screaming, he testified.
He fought his way in through the front door, pushing past the crowd coming out, and found another chaotic scene inside, he said. Tables were overturned, glass littered the floor, the room lights still were dimmed, colored dance lights were flashing, and the music was blaring.
He helped a woman who was trying to revive Foster, whose eyes had rolled back in his head and whose breathing was shallow, Culverson said. Then he applied a tourniquet to another wounded man’s leg.
No one would tell him who fired the shots, or where the shooters went, he said.
Culverson was testifying Tuesday in the murder trial of Dequandrea Truitt and Shaquille Porter, who face multiple charges in the 2013 New Year’s Day shooting that killed Foster and wounded six others.
Jurors also heard recordings of 911 calls from the scene. The calls, some unintelligible, came pouring into the 911 center between 2:15 and 2:25 a.m. One woman’s call ended in loud wailing; others dissolved into background noise.
Besides calls from the nightclub, dispatchers started hearing from neighbors who reported a wounded man crying at their door.
Despite all the calls, and the mass of witnesses at the scene, police got little cooperation in their investigation.
“You will hear that individuals at the scene were just not very helpful,” Senior District Attorney LaRae Moore said in her opening statement Tuesday, later adding, “Some of them were just downright not cooperative.”
One witness even cussed out a police sergeant, she said. Others simply fled, defying officers’ orders to stay to be questioned.
Two police officers gave testimony about the hostility bystanders showed them.
“Pretty much people didn’t want to get involved,” said Officer Ryan Vardeman.
Said Sgt. Loretta Zieverink: “We were being cursed at. We were being yelled at.”
The profane F-word or “F-bomb” filled the air outside as bar patrons vented at officers who wouldn’t let them leave the parking lot, she said.
Inside, she asked a witness’ age, and the woman replied, “F--k the police. I don’t like the police anyway. Why don’t you let us leave?”
Both inside and outside the club, police found empty bullet casings, Moore said — 11 were 9mm Luger casings; 10 were .45-caliber casings consistent with a Glock pistol.
Moore told jurors two prosecution witnesses can identify the shooters. Nineteen-year-old Corey Taylor testified he was outside trying to drive away in his girlfriend’s Honda Civic when Truitt, wearing a cast from a shotgun blast that wounded him in November 2012, bumped his window and started shooting.
Two bullets grazed his head and another hit him in the back, Taylor said. Trying to get away, he put the car in reverse and crashed into other vehicles, deploying his airbag, which briefly pinned him inside before he crawled out and ran, he said.
The shooting stopped when his car crashed, he said. As he ran away, he heard someone say, “Kill him!”
Under cross-examination, Taylor said he did not see Truitt’s face during the shooting, but he recognized Truitt’s voice and the colorful plaid shirt Truitt wore that night. He had greeted Truitt earlier inside the nightclub, and he and Truitt have known each other for years, he said.
He swore he knew of no reason Truitt would try to kill him. Pressed for an answer, he said, "Hatred."
Taylor, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, ran to nearby residences seeking help, prompting three 911 calls before police found him. Asked how a teenager got into an adult nightclub, he said it was common practice at the Majestic bar to charge underage patrons extra to get in. He paid $20, he said.
In her opening statement, Moore told the jury a second witness who was in the nightclub will identify Porter as having fired multiple times inside, spraying bullets as he spun around and fell to the floor. Porter’s firing so low to the ground explains why patrons were wounded in their lower extremities, their legs or feet, Moore said.
She said Foster similarly was shot. Though he was reported to have died from a chest wound, that was where the bullet exited, not where it entered his body, she said.
An autopsy revealed the bullet entered Foster’s lower right back and angled upward through his torso, consistent with his having been bent over with his back to the gun when he was hit, testified forensic pathologist Steven Atkinson.
The cavities within Foster’s torso were full of blood, Atkinson said: “There was massive internal hemorrhaging.”
Representing Porter, attorney Michael Eddings said no “scientific” evidence such as DNA or ballistics tests implicates his client in Foster’s slaying. “To this day, we don’t know who did the shooting,” he said.
Police recovered neither firearm afterward, he said.
The woman who Moore claimed could identify Porter as one of the gunmen has a brother who also was in the club that night, Eddings said. The brother will contradict his sibling’s testimony, saying he was standing right beside Porter when the shooting started, and he and Porter both dropped to the floor at the same time, the attorney said. Porter never drew a gun, the witness will testify, Eddings said.
The attorney also claimed the woman expected to testify against Porter previously had an “intimate” relationship with Porter and “stalked” him after they broke up.
Eddings said Porter was friends with five of the people wounded that night, and had no reason to shoot at them.
Representing Truitt, attorney Stacey Jackson said his client is right-handed and could not have fired a gun on Jan. 1, 2013, because his right arm still was in a cast from the shotgun wound sustained the previous November. Truitt had 11 pellet holes in his arm and four in his right side, and was hospitalized for more than a month, Jackson said.
Taylor, the witness who testified that Truitt shot him, said Truitt used his injured arm to beat on the car window, and must have used his left hand to fire the gun.
Moore said Truitt had been wounded Nov. 19 or 20, 2012, when he got into a fight with another man at a Phenix City recreation center. Truitt was losing the fistfight, so he pulled out a pistol and fired at the other combatant, missing his target, Moore said. One of the other man’s friends then got a shotgun and wounded Truitt, she said.
Jurors Tuesday were hearing testimony for the first time. The trial may take all week, as Moore said she has 30 witnesses to call and about 200 exhibits to show the jury.
Truitt, 22, and Porter, 20, each face two counts of murder, seven of aggravated assault and two of using firearms to commit a felony.
On March 11, 2013, Columbus Council revoked the Majestic Sports Bar’s alcoholic beverage license, effectively shutting the business down. City leaders said the revocation was based not on Foster’s death, but on the club’s having served underage drinkers and having employed workers who did not have the alcohol beverage control cards city law requires.