Larry Dean Jones Jr. testified he was only out for a day’s Christmas shopping, that a pal’s wife first dropped him and a pal off at the barbershop, so the friend could get a haircut.
But when his friend slipped into the barber’s chair and Jones pulled up a seat beneath an overhead TV and watched a documentary about former heavyweight champ Mike Tyson, a couple of other men in the crowded storefront mouthed off at the two of them in a profane and threatening manner, he testified.
“I felt in the pit of my stomach this was a dangerous situation,” Jones told a Sacramento Superior Court jury on Thursday in the south side barbershop murder trial now winding into its final hours.
Jones said he had no idea who these guys were who rattled the otherwise peaceful barbershop air, only that he knew he needed to get out. He called a friend to come pick up him and his friend and his friend’s 4-year-old son who accompanied them. Next thing he knew, bullets were flying, and Jones said he slid toward the rear of the barbershop and snatched the .40 caliber handgun he kept tucked inside his belt and fired.
“I wasn’t maliciously or recklessly firing,” he said. “There were no patrons,” in his line of fire, Jones testified.
By the time the shooting stopped, two people were dead, including a 30-year-old woman, outside in the parking lot. Monique Nelson laid her body over her 2-year-old son in the back seat of her SUV, to protect him from the 35 gunshots aimed in, out and around the barbershop. Another of the slain, Marvion Barksdale, 20, was one of the armed. Prosecutors said he helped instigate the Dec. 14, 2010, shootout, producing a 9mm handgun and stalking the two men who had troubled Jones. No charges were filed in connection with Barksdale’s killing.
Jones, 32, is one of four men charged with murder in Nelson’s death, and he has now spent three days on the witness stand testifying in his own defense. The day of the shooting “I was just defending myself,” he said. None of Jones’ gunfire is believed to have struck anyone, according to the ballistics evidence.
His fourth and final day of testimony is scheduled to conclude on Monday. Judge Kevin J. McCormick told the jury Thursday he hopes the lawyers will be able to argue the case on Tuesday.
Prosecutors contend that Jones played a major role in sparking the battle, with the call for help he made from inside Fly Cut & Styles on Stockton Boulevard. Phone records show the dispatch went to James Leo Carney III, 35, the man who authorities say put in the call to Barksdale, who gathered a crew to descend on the barbershop. Carney showed up separately, and it was a shot from his gun, all the attorneys agree, that killed Monique Nelson.
It’s a trial where Jones and Carney claim self-defense against the two alleged aggressors in the barbershop, Louis James Mitchell, 22, and his brother Lonnie Orlando Mitchell Jr., 27, who in turn say they were defending themselves from Barksdale. The older brother went to the barbershop that day with a TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun dangled around his neck, according to Jones’ friend Ernest Stoute, who testified in the trial. Lonnie Mitchell also is believed by authorities to be the person who wielded an AK-47 assault rifle in the Fly Cuts shootout.
Along with Nelson’s murder, all four defendants are charged with four counts of assault with a deadly weapon, for the injuries sustained by four other innocent bystanders in the shooting.
Jones’ attorney, Mike Wise, put him on the stand to corroborate the testimony of Stoute, who earlier in the trial had painted the same fairly innocent picture of two men who were only out on a holiday shopping trip, even though Jones made his foray into the season of greetings with the .40 stuck on his right side.
“Self-preservation,” Jones answered, when asked why he needed the gun.
The day of the shooting, he said he had no knowledge of the incident between Barksdale and Louis Mitchell that investigators believe sparked the fatal ruckus – Mitchell’s alleged robbery of a Barksdale friend of his “gold grill” teeth jewelry.
Stoute handed him a phone, Jones testified, and he put the call in to Carney.
Jones denied under questioning from Deputy District Attorney Valerie Brown that he told Carney to call Barksdale to help him get out of the barbershop.
Defense attorneys Amy Rogers and Linda Parisi, who are representing the Mitchell brothers, were joined by the DA in pounding Jones over the mentality he brought into Fly Cuts that day.
They also wondered why he didn’t leave the barbershop when he felt threatened. Asked by his lawyer what he thought the result would be if he walked out alone, Jones told Wise in his one-word answer: