The girlfriend who persuaded Charles Foster Jr. to go to a nightclub the New Year’s night he was fatally wounded by a stray bullet wept Wednesday from the guilt and pain of that fateful decision.
LaQuoia Arnold, 26, testified that her 24-year-old boyfriend was not the nightclub type. She was, and frequented the Majestic Sports Bar on Columbus’ Cusseta Road. That’s where she and Foster spent their last moments together as he lost consciousness from the bullet wound that was killing him.
She knelt beside him as he lay bleeding to death on the nightclub floor about 2:15 a.m. Jan. 1, 2013, and pleaded for him to hang on.
“I said, ‘Don’t leave me, baby. Please don’t leave me,’” she recalled Wednesday as she testified in the murder trial of Dequandrea Truitt and Shaquille Porter.
He was still conscious and able to communicate, but he was fading. A bullet had ripped into his lower, right back and angled upward through his torso, causing massive bleeding, according to earlier testimony.
At his side, Arnold prayed, “God, please don’t let this happen to me,” she said.
Finally an ambulance took Foster to The Midtown Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 3:28 a.m.
She left the hospital hours later. “I had to walk home alone in the freezing cold,” Arnold testified. Foster’s family did not want her company. If not for her, Foster would not have gone to a nightclub on New Year’s Eve.
“My plan was to go to the club. His plan was to go to church,” she said, later adding, “Me and him lived two different lifestyles.”
She said Foster used to tell her, “Baby, people die in clubs.”
She began to sob on the witness stand. In the courtroom audience, Foster’s family also wept.
Arnold acknowledged it was her fault that Foster, whom she called “CJ,” had gone to a nightclub instead of a church. “His family was so pissed off at me,” she said. “And they got a right to be pissed off at me.”
Before the emotion overwhelmed her, Arnold gave some of the most detailed testimony yet about what happened inside the nightclub that night.
She said friends and relatives accompanied them in Foster’s Ford pickup to the 2102 Cusseta Road club, arriving about 8:40 p.m. She said her sister had decorated the bar for New Year’s Eve, and they wanted to make sure everything looked right.
Only 30 people were inside about 9 p.m., and only 60 at midnight. But then patrons started to pack the place, with about 200 inside by 12:30 a.m., she said.
They danced and greeted friends, and she drank wine and smoked marijuana, she said. She noted that Truitt, whom she knew, was among the patrons, she said. She recalled he wore a black “hoodie” or hooded sweatshirt, and his right arm was bandaged from a gunshot wound sustained months earlier. He was among 10-15 guys partying on the dance floor as a favorite song played, she said.
Then hell broke loose.
“Two minutes later all you heard was gunshots,” first one, then two, then a rapid series, she said.
She tapped Foster and said, “Let’s go,” but then she dropped to the floor as bullets whizzed by. When the shooting stopped, she started crawling toward the door, then noticed that in their panic, other customers were stepping on each other to get out, so she got up and did the same, she said.
At the door, she and Truitt walked out side by side, and she noticed he had a gun in his hand, she said. Outside a friend told her Foster didn’t make it out, so she went back in.
She found him dying on the floor. Other people wounded by gunfire also remained inside, including a man shot in the leg, who lay by the dance floor speakers, screaming.
Other witnesses Wednesday described the mess left behind by the terrified crowd: “Shoes were everywhere. Bottles were everywhere,” said Derrick Foster, 24, Charles Foster Jr.’s cousin.
He said two or three people lay wounded inside the club, including his cousin, whose mouth was foaming as he lay still on the floor. The glasses he usually wore were missing.
“Almost every table and chair was turned over,” said retired police Cpl. David Pierson, who photographed the crime scene. Combs, brushes and other personal items lay scattered about, he said.
Also scattered on the floor were bullet casings from 9mm and a .45-caliber bullets, evidence of the barrage of gunfire that emptied the club, killed Foster and wounded six others.
When Derrick Foster fled the gunfire, he ran outside to his cousin’s truck and hid in the bed. From there he witnessed two or three men around a Honda Civic in the club parking lot. One banged on the Civic, and as the car started to back up, shots were fired.
One of the guys at the Civic was short and wearing a black hoodie, he said. He assumed it was the same guy he’d seen inside the club earlier a man who had his arm in a sling.
Another witness, Michael Battle, 27, said he also saw a man in a black hoodie in the club parking lot, banging on the trunk of a Honda Civic. It was a short man with a bandaged arm, he said, adding the gunman fired three or four shots at the Civic.
The Civic’s driver, Corey Taylor, 19, testified Tuesday that Truitt was the gunman who fired into the car, wounding him three times. Police later found four bullets lodged in the vehicle.
So far no witness has been able to say what provoked the abrupt violence. Those who were inside the nightclub said they neither saw nor heard any fight or argument before the shooting.
Court adjourned Wednesday before Arnold completed her testimony, so she will return to the witness stand in Judge William Rumer’s courtroom this morning at 9.
Truitt, 22, and Porter, 20, each face two counts of murder, seven of aggravated assault and two of using firearms to commit a felony.