Duane Lomax told the 911 operator he thought he saw the woman pull a gun on him during their late-night argument in a Wendy’s parking lot on Watt Avenue. With his phone in his ear, he tailed her into a neighborhood in Foothill Farms where he’d never been, him being from Atlanta. It was 1:44 a.m.
As he spoke to the dispatcher, the woman’s car was still in his sights when he figured it might be a good idea to give up the chase.
“I’m just trying to find my way out of here,” Lomax told the dispatcher. “I don’t see a street sign yet,” he said. “I wish I knew my way around here.”
Two minutes later, another woman in the car he was following made a call of her own, authorities said. It was to her brother, an admitted former member of the white supremacist Sacramaniac prison gang who confirmed on the witness stand Wednesday in Sacramento Superior Court that he had a swastika tattoo on his leg, another that read “White Pride,” and yet another on his neck that said “Pure Hate.”
The woman testified she told her brother the man in the car behind her on Dec. 8, 2012, happened to be African American, although she didn’t describe him that way back then. She called him a six-letter word that begins with “N.”
The next thing Lomax knew, a car cut him off and the driver jumped out.
“Oh, now we got somebody else,” he told the 911 operator. “I guess they called somebody else, to – oh, hey, how – ho, ho, ho. This guy has a gun and he’s shooting at me.”
Then Lomax’s end of the line went quiet. Sheriff’s deputies raced to the scene and found him dead in his car, a bullet shot through his neck in what a prosecutor suggested Wednesday was a racially motivated ambush.
A partner in his family’s X-ray machine cleaning business in Atlanta, the 36-year-old Lomax was in Northern California to attend a son’s birthday party. It was scheduled for the day he was shot dead.
The man on trial for murder in connection with his death, Brian Keith Jones Jr., 25, a three-time felon once convicted of assault on a police officer with intent to commit great bodily injury, claimed the killing took place in self-defense. He also said he is a racist no more.
“I made some bad decisions as a kid, and I’ve regretted it ever since,” Jones testified in his murder trial for the shooting death on Predial Way.
Jones said he was “15 or 16” when he inked the swastika and “White Power” into his skin, and still a kid when he marked himself for “Pure Hate.” On Wednesday, he sought to cover up the neck decoration with a green dress shirt he buttoned to his Adam’s apple.
When Deputy District Attorney Donell Slivka asked him about it, he said his “Pure Hate” tattoo was not for anything in particular.
“It’s just a tattoo I got when I was a kid,” he said. “It’s not indicating against any race.”
About an hour into her cross-examination, Slivka asked Jones about the call from his sister, Karrina Slabbekorn. She testified she used the “N-word” to describe the man in the car that was following her and a friend, Vanessa Reyes-Singh, who had the verbal confrontation with the man at the Wendy’s parking lot just off the Capital City Freeway.
“I didn’t hear it,” Jones said of the racial expletive.
“Didn’t that evoke a reaction? You don’t like black people, do you, Mr. Jones?” Slivka asked in back-to-back questions.
“You’re trying to make this a racial thing,” Jones shot back, pointing out that his wife’s father and a friend of his who were in the courtroom were black.
Slivka, defense attorney Robert Saria and Judge Marjorie Knoller then went into chambers to discuss how much of the racial testimony would be allowed into the trial. Sitting in front of the jury on the witness stand during their absence, Jones wept.
The defendant testified he was home asleep when he got the call from his sister, who had been out clubbing on a Friday night with Reyes-Singh. Jones described his sister as “hysterical” and “panicked” by the man chasing them.
“I needed to go help her and made sure she was all right,” Jones testified.
Of Jones’ felony convictions, two sent him to state prison. His most recent conviction, in 2011, included a count of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. Yet when he went to help his sister, he said he armed himself with a loaded .357 Magnum revolver. He admitted in court to tossing it out of his car after the shooting, just before deputies stopped him.
A few minutes after the 1:46 a.m. call from Slabbekorn, Jones, who was living nearby with another sister on Adieu Court, got into his car and exited his cul-de-sac by making a left onto Predial Way. He testified he then saw headlights coming toward him from the opposite direction. The first car was Reyes-Singh and his sister. He let them go, he said. Then he admittedly swung his car into the middle of the street to block the path of the next vehicle in line. It was Lomax’s.
Jones testified he got out of the car with the gun in his hand. He said he thought Lomax was going to run him over, so he fired a single shot over the hood of the oncoming Nissan, aiming at the passenger side. The car stopped. He said he ran to the side of Lomax’s car and fell, and that while he was on the ground the vehicle began backing up toward him as if to run him over. He said he then scrambled to his feet and fired five more rounds into Lomax’s car, including the one that killed him.
Slivka suggested a scenario in which Jones got out of the car after blocking Lomax, fired on him, then chased the victim as he tried to make a U-turn out of the neighborhood. She asserted that Jones fired five more times through Lomax’s rear passenger window, “aiming at his head.” Slivka asked Jones if it wasn’t true he had set up an ambush of the man.
“Absolutely not,” Jones answered.
The shooting prompted another 911 call while the dispatcher who had been speaking with Lomax stayed on the line.
“OK, where are you, sir?” the dispatcher asked, when Lomax went silent. “Are you still there? Duane, are you there? Duane, are you still there?”