An eyewitness who was talking to Anthony Meredith just inside a Peachtree Mall entrance at the time Meredith was gunned down — in what prosecutors describe as a drug-related gang retaliation shooting — positively identified the gunman as testimony began in the murder trial.
The eyewitness told the Muscogee County Superior Court jury on Wednesday that Xzavaien Trevon Jones, 19, was the shooter in the 2016 Easter weekend slaying.
“I can say 100 percent,” the witness said when he was asked by Chief Assistant District Attorney Al Whitaker if Jones was the shooter.
The witness was so certain that, as the Columbus Police investigation of the shooting started moments after Meredith was shot, the witness pulled up Jones’ Facebook profile and showed it to police, identifying the suspect. Meredith was a family friend of the witness and he had known Jones since high school.
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Jones, his sister Tekoa Chantrell Young and Terell Raquez McFarland are on trial in Judge Frank Jordan’s court for the murder of Meredith. Each defendant faces charges of murder, aggravated assault and gang membership. Jones also is charged with using a firearm to commit a crime.
In his opening statement, Whitaker told the jury “the whole incident was caught on camera.” Mall security camera video from multiple cameras was introduced into evidence by the prosecutor.
“Once you see the whole picture, there will be no doubt in your mind,” Whitaker told the jury.
The Peachtree Mall shooting was the culmination of events that had been playing out for more than a year between rival drug operations, Whitaker said.
In January 2015, Young was living with her boyfriend, Christopher Twitty, who like Jones and McFarland were members of the Crips gang, multiple attorneys told the court on Wednesday.
There was a transaction in which Twitty took $3,900 worth of drugs from Meredith.
“Later on Facebook a message talked about how Twitty had punked Anthony Meredith,” Whitaker said.
On Oct. 29, 2015, Meredith was shot in the cheek and spent about three weeks in the hospital recovering.
“Three days after Meredith was discharged, there was a home invasion and Twitty was shot and killed,” Whitaker said. “It was tit for tat.”
Whitaker then outlined how Young, Jones and McFarland went to Peachtree Mall on March 26, 2016. Young arrived in one car and Jones and McFarland in another.
Video introduced by the prosecution showed the cars arriving and leaving the parking lot near the entrance to the food court. An interior camera captured the shooting.
Much of the morning was spent in legal maneuvering by two of the three defense attorneys trying to separate the trials. Attorneys for Young and McFarland renewed motions to have separate trials from Jones.
Before the jury entered the courtroom to hear opening statements, Young’s attorney, Mark Shelnutt, presented a signed statement from his client’s younger brother, Jones, that had been obtained Wednesday morning. Jones said in the written statement he would testify for his sister, claiming she was not in a gang and was not involved in shooting Meredith, which the state alleges was a gang-related retaliation.
“She should get a trial on her own so she cannot be prejudiced by not calling this witness,” Shelnutt told the court.
Jones, because he is on trial, is not required to testify, and if he does, the questioning would not be limited to his sister’s involvement.
Whitaker called it a self-serving statement and objected to Shelnutt’s request. Assistant District Attorney Pete Temesgen argued that Jones was “trying to have his cake and eat it, too.”
Jordan, after reading the statement, listening to each side argue their position, took considerable time to deny both motions.
The trial continues Thursday.