Demonte Lavell Williams, of Gulfport, was convicted of Manslaughter late last week after a four-day jury trial. After deliberating for close to two hours, the jury returned its guilty verdict. Circuit Court Judge Christopher Schmidt presided over the trial and immediately took Williams into custody after the verdict, and set sentencing for October 12, 2023. Williams faces a potential sentence of twenty (20) years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The jury heard that on June 14, 2021, Gulfport Police responded to a 911 call of a shooting in the parking lot of O’Reilly Auto Parts on Dedeaux Road north of the interstate.
Upon arrival, police located the deceased victim suffering from multiple gunshot wounds. Eyewitnesses told police the victim was the first customer of the day, and came in to get his car checked. Minutes later, Williams arrived and went inside the store.
The victim, who had been in the parking lot with an employee, then walked in the store and confronted Williams about a comment Williams had made on a prior occasion about the victim’s deceased brother. The victim then went out to Williams’ vehicle and ripped the door handle off or the truck.
“Eyewitness testimony at trial, established that the victim was standing at the door of Williams’ truck, with his back to the door of the store, when Williams kicked open the front door of O‘Reilly’s, and immediately fired four shots at the victim,” said Assistant District Attorney, Ian Baker, who prosecuted the case along with fellow colleague Jasmine McGee.
After shooting the victim, Williams went back inside the store and spoke with employees, who advised that they were calling the police. Williams then made a phone call, and while on the phone, left the store on foot and headed East on Dedeaux Road, where he was later picked up by his mother and taken to Tylertown, Miss.
Investigators with the Gulfport Police Department were able to recover the weapon near an air conditioning unit at a business across the street from O’Reilly’s. Forensic evidence determined the casings collected on scene were fired from that weapon, and that Williams’ DNA was on the trigger of the weapon.
At trial, Williams would testify that he was afraid of the victim based on prior threats of violence against him and his mother made over the phone, on Facebook, and in person. Williams also testified that while inside the store, the victim lifted his shirt as if he had a weapon, and said “tell your mother to get your tombstone ready, because one of us is going to die today.”
Williams also claimed that when he walked outside, the victim turned to face him and made a move for his waistband, so he closed his eyes and fired.
However, eyewitnesses testified the victim did not make any statement about a tombstone or dying today inside the store, and there was no conversation between the two men outside. The eyewitnesses further testified that they never saw the victim lift his shirt or make any movement or indication that he had a weapon, and that the victim had his back to Williams when Williams fired.
The Chief State Medical Examiner, Dr. Staci Turner, testified that the victim was shot in the left rear portion of his head and in the left ankle, with a back to front trajectory. Dr. Turner further testified that the wounds were not consistent with the victim facing Williams at the time he was shot by Williams.
“At the end of the day, an unarmed man was shot in the back in broad daylight. Our young men must learn to solve their disagreements without a gun, the jury agreed, and justice was served for Mr. Jones and his family,” said District Attorney W. Crosby Parker.