Man guilty in shooting murder
Killed Westlake HS senior in October
The man charged with murder for the fatal shooting of a Westlake High School student in October was found guilty of second-degree murder on Friday in Charles County Circuit Court.
Deavan Quindel Jefferson, 20, of Baltimore was found guilty of second-degree murder for the death of Reuel Hicks,
18, a senior at Westlake High School, who he shot in the head after a drug deal — involving a small amount of marijuana — went awry outside the AMC movie theatre near the St. Charles Towne Center mall, court proceedings showed.
Prosecutors believe Jefferson had intended to rob Hicks of the marijuana, while the defense argued that Jefferson had acted in imperfect self-defense; they argued it was Hicks and two of his friends who had intended to rob Jefferson behind movie theater.
Jefferson had been charged with first-degree murder. Assistant state’s attorneys Jonathan Beattie and Constance Kopelman told the jury that it was not self-defense; the shooting was premeditated. Premeditation, they said, doesn’t necessarily have to be an elaborate plan, rather just enough time to consider the act before committing it.
“You know what you’re going to do, you have time to think about the options, and you make a choice,” said Beattie during closing arguments. “He thought about it, he did it, and he’s guilty.”
Public defender Matthew Connell told the jury that the act took place in a matter of seconds, and pointed to testimony during the four day trial that showed that Jefferson had been gathering money from friends at the mall to collectively purchase marijuana. Connell also pointed out that one of Hicks’ friends told police that, from a mere look exchanged inside the mall, the unspoken plan was to rob Jefferson, and that the trio had two knives inside a backpack recovered by police. The state rebutted, saying there was no verbal or written communication of a planned robbery; that even if that was the case, they had no chance to carry it out as Jefferson shot Hicks in the head without hesitation after luring him to a dark, secluded area.
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 theater 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.
“If you’re going to shoot me, then shoot me,” the eyewitness testified. And Jefferson 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.
During the trial, jurors heard Jefferson’s interview with a Charles County Sheriff’s Office detective, in which he initially tried to pin the murder on one of Hicks’ friends, who he did not recognize. When he learned that he was going to be charged with murder, he claimed self-defense, telling Det. Long that, “I shot him in his [explicit] head,” and went on to brag that he was a “pistol expert,” that his aim was “vicious.”
The .380 caliber handgun was never recovered.
“He was a son, a brother, a high school student,” said assistant state’s attorney Constance Kopelman during closing arguments. “… Most importantly, he was a human being, and he didn’t deserve to die.”