‘He’s got a gun!’

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, May 12, 2011

Witnesses describe murder victim’s last moments

The bullet that killed TyQuan Lewis on Aug. 1, 2010, was just one of 15 shots fired by the man he’d met up with on Walnut Street early that morning to fight, a prosecutor said Friday.

Dontaz “Taz” Latray Wilkerson, 20, fired 15 times into a group of four teenagers who were spoiling for a fight following a string of altercations at and after a party earlier in the evening, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Will Jamerson told a jury in the first day of Wilkerson’s trial for the murder of Lewis, who would be a senior at Lakeland High School.

Wilkerson is on trial for first-degree murder and numerous other charges in relation to the incident. Prosecutors say he was the one who fired the shots near Booker T. Washington Elementary School on that rainy night.

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The jury trial began Thursday for one of two suspects in the death of Lewis, a wide receiver on the Lakeland football team.

The incident began at a party at the Bethlehem Ruritan Club building on Manning Road, according to Rashad Deloatch, a friend of Lewis who was with him that night.

Deloatch testified that attendees were charged $5 each to get into the party and could purchase alcohol — both beer and hard liquor — once in the door.

At some point during the night, Deloatch testified, a fight broke out between Wilkerson and another man. Lewis broke up the fight.

Deloatch said he, Lewis and two other friends then left and went to the McDonald’s on Holland Road. They went on to some other locations in the downtown area, including one where they met up with Wilkerson’s girlfriend and argued with her.

Then, Deloatch said, Lewis got a phone call, and the group went to Walnut Street — near the elementary school in a residential neighborhood — “so they could fight one-on-one.”

Deloatch said he saw Wilkerson pointing at the foursome as soon as they got out of the car. Then he heard gunshots.

“We took off running,” he said. “When I was running, [bullets were] like flying past.”

When the gunfire ended, the three friends returned to the car, which was parked across from the school’s main entrance. They found Lewis lying beside the car, bleeding from a wound to the jaw from a bullet that had lodged in the back of his neck.

Jamerson said the bullet “ruptured some arteries.”

The scene was chaotic when officers first arrived, with more bystanders “rapidly coming on scene,” Officer H. Alexander said.

Because of the hectic situation, paramedics quickly put Lewis into the back of an ambulance and transported him to Fire Station No. 3, just a block or two up the road, where they continued to work on him. One paramedic testified that Lewis never regained consciousness or a pulse. He was pronounced dead just before 2 a.m.

Police officers worked throughout the night to locate a bullet fragment in the middle of the road, as well as 15 shell casings near the entrance to the school’s rear parking lot.

Jamerson said during opening statements that Lewis had yelled, “He’s got a gun” just before the shooting started.

During his opening statement, defense attorney Richard Davis asked the 14 jurors to keep an open mind about the case.

“This is a serious case,” he said. “A young man is dead and not able to fulfill his potential that I’m quite sure he had.”

“They’re going to dazzle you,” Davis continued. “It’s going to be just like a ‘Law and Order’ episode. I’m going to ask you to keep an open mind about how it happened.”

The other person charged in the shooting, Randy Sherrod Copeland, has a trial set for July 28-29.