The murder suspect in the Feb. 15 shooting on Thomas Street allegedly asked to see the victim before shooting him in front of his brother while at a cookout, authorities said.
Travis Thomas, 39, pleaded not guilty to murder, armed robbery, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He was ordered held in the Muscogee County Jail under a $5,000 bond on the felon with a weapon charge, but denied bond on the other charges.
Judge Julius Hunter bound the case over to Superior Court.
Columbus police were called to the 2700 block of Thomas Street around 7:15 p.m. Feb. 15 to investigate a shooting. They found 38-year-old Darnell Jackson of Phenix City suffering from a gunshot wound to the abdomen.
He was transported to Piedmont Columbus Regional-Midtown Campus, formerly known as Midtown Medical Center. He was pronounced dead at the hospital at 8:03 p.m., Muscogee County Coroner Buddy Bryan said.
Cpl. Stuart Carter said Jackson's brother was at a cookout at a home in the 2700 block of Thomas Street when he saw Thomas pull up in a vehicle. He said the defendant, who he has known for 32 years, exited the vehicle and approached him.
A neighbor walked up to them as they were talking and asked if "Droop," which is the victim's nickname, was at the cookout. The brother told him he was inside the home.
Thomas allegedly told the neighbor, "When you go up to the porch, tell 'Droop' to come outside. I need to talk to him."
Carter said the neighbor was heading to the porch when Thomas, who is also known as "white boy," removed his firearm from his jacket pocket and robbed Jackson's brother at gunpoint. He allegedly stole $100 and two cell phones before hiding the gun behind his back.
The homicide victim then stepped off of the porch and approached the men. Police said Jackson exchanged a few words with Thomas before the suspect shot him once in the abdomen. The 9mm shell casing was found near the victim's body.
Jackson's brother told detectives that Thomas then ran across the street, toward the vehicle he arrived in before the shooting.
"He made a motion like he was going to get into it, but then ran toward Samson Avenue, going to Colorado Street," Carter testified.
The neighbor gave the same account of the shooting as Jackson's brother, according to police.
Officials said the vehicle Thomas left at the scene was registered to his cousin. They went to her residence and saw a gray 2011 Dodge Ram pickup truck in her driveway.
Carter said the Dodge was registered to Thomas. His cousin stated that she exchanged vehicles with Thomas at her job on Feb. 12, according to police.
Officials sent out an alert four days after the shooting announcing that Thomas was wanted on murder warrants stemming from the shooting. On Feb. 26, he turned himself into authorities with his attorney, Rufus Smith Jr., present.
Detectives said Smith handed them a 9mm Glock.