Tommie Jamal Mullins, an aspiring rap artist, planned the April 6 shooting of rapper Branden Denson to steal his marijuana and later praised the alleged shooter, a Columbus police detective said Friday in Recorder’s Court.
Mullins, 24, of Columbus pleaded not guilty to one count of murder in the death of Denson in the parking lot of Pizza Hut at 4236 Buena Vista Road. Judge Julius Hunter ordered Mullins held without bond and bound the charge over to Muscogee Superior Court.
Mullins was in court a day after Bartlett Coppins, 24, faced charges of murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. Eric Randall Spencer, 29, was the first arrest in the case.
Known as “Billion Dollar BD,” Denson was found shot three times in the back while sitting in the driver’s seat of his black Jeep Wrangler. Police said a suitcase with 15 to 16 pounds of packaged marijuana has never been found.
In statements from a witness who was in the parking lot that night, detective Robert Nicholas said the robbery of Denson was planned possibly on Viking Drive where Mullins told Coppins, Spencer and two other individuals still under investigation for their roles in the robbery.
Police talked to Denson’s parents about the rapper’s activities that evening. Just before leaving their home, he filled a suitcase with 15 to 16 pounds of marijuana and told his father he was going to meet a man with the nickname “TJ” at the Pizza Hut less than 2 miles away.
On Thursday, the witness identified Coppins at the suspect who shot and killed Denson. The witness also identified Spencer, the first suspect arrested after his fingerprint was found on a rear passenger door of the Jeep.
An analysis of Denson’s phone showed it received 13 calls from the same number before he arrived in the restaurant’s parking lot at 10 p.m. A report on the number showed it was used by Mullins but wasn’t registered to him, Nicholas said.
After the shooting of Denson and taking the pot, the witness said Mullins was the one who divided up the marijuana and money taken from Denson. He also congratulated Coppins for shooting the rapper.
Mullins was represented by defense attorney Stacey Jackson, who questioned Nicholas about the phone used by Mullins. The detective said all the records have not been returned yet.
The detective indicated there will be warrants issued on two other suspects in the case and the witness.
Outside the courtroom, Jackson said he doesn’t believe there is an eyewitness. What the detective was doing is probably trying to protect the interest of a co-defendant that was first arrested in the case.
“Eric Spencer basically has turned state’s evidence in attempt to provide information to the police in an attempt to release the pressure off of himself,”’ he said. “From my understanding and the preliminary hearing, the fingerprint was found. Initially if you go back to Spencer’s preliminary hearing, nothing was said about an eyewitness being present in the parking lot. There were no eye witnesses.”
Before the hearing ended, police Lt. Greg Touchberry announced that murder and armed robbery warrants have been issued for Johnathon Lemorris Swift, 26. Known to hang out in the Viking Drive and Gleason Avenue area, he should be considered armed and extremely dangerous.
Anyone with information on the murder of Denson or the whereabouts of Swift should call 911 or Cpl. Robert Nicholas at 706-225-4363 or RobertNicholas@columbusga.org .