State calls witnesses in murder trial
Defendant charged with slaying Westlake student
The state was continuing to call witnesses as the trial for a man charged with murder for the fatal shooting of a Westlake High School student continued into day three, as of press time Thursday morning.
Deavan Quindel Jefferson, 20, of Baltimore is contesting the charge of first-degree murder for the death of Reuel Hicks, 18, a senior at Westlake High School, who he reportedly shot in the head after a drug deal — involving $20 worth of marijuana — went awry in October 2016, court proceedings showed. Prosecutors believe Jefferson had intended to
rob Hicks of the marijuana, while the defense argues that Jefferson acted in imperfect self-defense, that Hicks and two of his friends had intended to rob Jefferson behind the AMC movie theatre near St. Charles Towne Center in Waldorf.
For the better part of the day, Oct. 26, 2016, both Hicks and Jefferson had been hanging out around the mall with friends in separate groups, proceedings showed. While at the food court, a friend of Hicks was approached by Jefferson, who asked to buy marijuana, the friend testified. Hicks’ friend said he knew of Jefferson as an acquaintance, and asked Hicks if he could sell him marijuana.
Jefferson, whose friends stayed behind, followed Hicks and two of his friends away from the food court, and behind the AMC theatre to a secluded area to avoid drawing attention from mall security, Hick’s friend testified. He told the court that as he and the other friend carried on a conversation close by, Hicks and Jefferson began to argue during the exchange, which made them turn around and look.
“Seen the gun come out. It was like a stand-off, and then he shot him,” said Hick’s friend.
Just before Hicks was shot, he said, Hicks told Jefferson, “If you’re going to shoot me, then shoot me,” and he did so without hesitating, and then walked away without saying anything. Jefferson was arrested shortly after as police searched the area. Police also recovered a .380 caliber shell casing from the scene, but no handgun, and the cover to a digital scale, which is commonly used to weigh drugs.
Hicks, who was critically injured from the gunshot wound to the head, died in the hospital that night.
Public defender Matthew Connell pointed out in cross-examination that Hicks’ two friends, who stayed on scene and talked to police, were not completely forthcoming initially, leaving out critical details about the arranged marijuana transaction and instead acting as if it was a random act of violence carried out by a stranger who had been following them. One of Hicks’ friends even maintained in his testimony that “nothing illegal was going on” when Hicks was shot.
Connell asked one of Hicks’ friends a pointed question, if he knew what “lying by omission” meant. The young man, who became contentious, replied that he answered questions as he was asked and did not have a chance to explain the whole incident until back at a police facility. He denied trying to mislead officers.
It was also revealed under cross-examination by one of Hicks’ friends that he and Hicks had committed multiple robberies before, but he testified that that was not the intention on Oct. 26, 2016. Asked a follow-up question by assistant state’s attorney Jonathan Beattie, the friend said that it was Jefferson who suggested going to a secluded area to make the transaction.
Connell’s line of questioning, however, indicated that Hicks’ friend may have contradicted what he told Det. Jack Austin, the lead investigator. Prosecutors planned to call Austin to testify Thursday.
The state also called a friend of Jefferson to testify, who said he had been at the mall with Jefferson that day. He said he was outside the mall with other friends when he heard a gunshot, and then saw Jefferson walk around the corner. Jefferson then told him and his friends to walk ahead of him, and they walked as a group for a distance before going separate ways.
Another friend of Jeffersons’ said he had left the mall, but was still close by, when he received a call via Facebook from Jefferson at 7:55 p.m., proceedings showed. Jefferson, he said, sounded distraught, like “he was in trouble,” and that someone had been “trying him.” The friend believed Jefferson was about to get into a fight. They began text messaging each other, and Jefferson seemed to be worried about police officers in the area, and asked his friend if he had spoken with any. The communications stopped shortly after. The next day, the friend discovered Jefferson had been arrested for the shooting by watching the news.
The trial is ongoing, expected to conclude Friday.