Crime

Alleged Bloods gangster killed man in drive-by retaliation shooting, prosecutor said

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

In two drive-by shootings meant to avenge his 2015 assault outside a Cusseta Road liquor store, Demartre Trevon Harris killed one man and wounded two others, but none of the victims were his attackers, authorities said.

Now the alleged Bloods street gang member is on trial for murder in Muscogee Superior Court, accused of fatally shooting Marcus Bowden multiple times outside a house at 2900 Cusseta Road on Nov. 24, 2015, four days after Harris was dragged from an SUV and beaten at the M&N liquor store across the street.

Harris, then 22, was arrested three months later on charges of murder, three counts of aggravated assault and one count of using a gun to commit a felony.

Now 26, he faces life in prison without parole if convicted of murder, because prosecutors are seeking “recidivist” punishment based on his criminal history.

Before Harris’ trial started Tuesday, Kelly disclosed prosecutors had offered him a deal to serve 20 years in prison plus 10 on probation if he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault. Harris rejected the offer.

The assault

Senior District Attorney Don Kelly told jurors Tuesday that Harris targeted the house because some of the men who beat him at the store came running from the house to join in the assault, and ran back to it afterward.

Harris was riding in a white 2001 Ford Explorer driven by a friend who stopped at the 2821 Cusseta Road store and went inside as three men came out. One of those men recognized Harris and walked over to talk to him, Kelly said.

Store surveillance video recorded the Nov. 21, 2015, confrontation as a fight broke out and Harris was forced to the ground and kicked by several assailants who ran when Harris’ friend came back out and screamed, the prosecutor said.

Harris and his friend left in the SUV. Afterward Harris went online and vented his anger, messaging a friend that “Everybody dies,” and, “The Bloods will be respected,” Kelly said.

The drive-bys

Around 6 p.m. the following Monday, Laundon Alexander stopped by 2900 Cusseta Road to visit friends. He was outside talking to Patrick Boyd when he heard squealing tires and gunshots, and saw a white SUV speed by with someone firing from the rear passenger seat on the driver’s side, he testified.

Feeling the “burn of a bullet” striking him in the thigh, he ducked for cover, crawling in front of a pickup truck he had parked nearby, he said.

Boyd also was hit in the thigh, but more grievously wounded, the bullet breaking his leg. He was in the hospital for two weeks afterward. Neither he nor Alexander could say who fired the shots.

Police called to the shooting collected .22-caliber and .40-caliber bullet casings.

Around 11:30 a.m. the next day, Nov. 24, 2015, Bowden and a friend went to 2900 Cusseta Road to get some video games. Bowden, the homeowner’s grandson, lived there.

The friend was waiting outside when a white SUV sped by, with someone firing from the backseat on the driver’s side. The friend ran for cover, and returned to find Bowden had been shot in the abdomen. Bowden died about an hour later in the hospital. He was 30 years old.

He’d been shot with a .40 caliber.

Homicide investigators called to Cusseta Road heard about the fight four days earlier at the liquor store, and retrieved the surveillance video that recorded the brawl. The video showed Harris’ friend from the Ford Explorer was wearing a work uniform from Piggly-Wiggly.

One of the officers viewing the footage worked part-time at the same store and recognized the woman, whom police questioned the next day. She identified Harris, and said Harris and another man had borrowed her white Ford Explorer the day before, and returned it to a home on Illges Road about 11:45 a.m., Kelly said.

Serving a search warrant at the residence on Illges Road, police seized a pink .22-caliber pistol. They also searched the woman’s Ford Explorer, finding a .22-caliber shell casing that matched the pistol, the prosecutor said.

Ballistics tests showed the .40-caliber shell casings police found at the two drive-by shootings on Cusseta Road all came from the same gun, but investigators never found that weapon, Kelly said. What they found were Facebook postings in which Harris days earlier had shown off a Springfield .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, identifying it as his new gun, the attorney said.

Hunting Harris

Police got a warrant for Harris’ arrest, but it took months to find him as friends helped him hide out. Finally they learned in February 2016 that he was holed up in a house on Sentry Street, and surrounded the residence.

After using a battering ram to break through the front door, police proceeded to a bedroom where they again had to break the door in, because Harris had barricaded it with a couch, Kelly said. He was arrested Feb. 23, 2016.

According to court records, Harris has these prior Columbus felony convictions:

  • Auto theft on Jan. 24, 2011.
  • Possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute it on Sept. 9, 2012.
  • Possession of a firearm by a convicted felon on Oct. 4, 2013.
  • Violating the Georgia Controlled Substances Act and being a convicted felon with a firearm on Feb. 13, 2015.
Tim Chitwood is from Seale, Ala., and started as a police beat reporter with the Ledger-Enquirer in 1982. He since has covered Columbus’ serial killings and other homicides, following some from the scene of the crime to trial verdicts and ensuing appeals. He also has been a Ledger-Enquirer humor columnist since 1987. He’s a graduate of Auburn University, and started out working for the weekly Phenix Citizen in Phenix City, Ala.
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