Not guilty on all counts. That’s a Hamilton County jury’s verdict for 30-year-old Johnny Leearthur Barbour, who was charged with attempted murder following a 2010 altercation that left another man with a minor gunshot wound.
The verdict came just hours after Barbour took the stand and gave his version of how he came to fire his gun during the early morning hours of Oct. 13, 2010, after being attacked by two men he had thought were doing him a favor by giving him a car ride.
His account differed sharply from the one given one day earlier by Michael Steven Kilgore, 27, who was hit by a bullet that entered the left wall of his abdomen and exited a few inches away near his belly button.
Barbour said he had gotten stranded at the Fox and Hound Restaurant at Hamilton Place, and asked Kilgore and his buddies for a ride to Wilcox Boulevard. The men, who were headed in that direction, agreed to take him as far as a filling station on Dodds Avenue. There, Barbour said, he planned to walk to the home of a friend who lives on Arlington, off Wilcox.
He is familiar with that part of Chattanooga, he said. “I’ve got two children right there in East Lake and I go through there all the time to see them.”
He said he got out of the men’s car at the service station on Dodds, and began walking toward his destination.
But Kilgore and another man, Mike Jones, followed him, Barbour said. Then, he told the jury, “Kilgore hit me in the head and knocked me to the ground and Jones kicked me in the stomach.”
When Kilgore bent down toward where he was lying on the ground to hit him again, Barbour testified, “I fired (my gun) to keep them off me.”
Kilgore took off running in one direction, he said, and Jones ran in another.
“I didn’t want to hurt anybody, I just wanted them to quit hurting me,” he said.
At that point, he said, the third man in the car – who was not involved in the attack on him – approached him.
“I asked him, ‘Why did they do that to me?’ and he said he didn’t know,” Barbour said. Then, he said, the man added “Just don’t shoot me. I’ll take you wherever you want to go.”
“Why would I shoot you?” Barbour said he told the man. “You didn’t do anything to me.”
On Tuesday, Kilgore had testified that it was Barbour who was the aggressor in the incident. But he admitted that he and Barbour were involved in a physical confrontation immediately before the shooting.
According to Kilgore, Barbour was angry because he was being dropped off on Dodds Avenue instead of being driven all the way to Wilcox. He told jurors that Barbour “reached for me” in a threatening manner, so “I did what I had to do to get his hands off me.”
At that point, according to Kilgore, Barbour “pulled a 380 out and started shooting.”
During cross-examination, however, Kilgore acknowledged that his statements in court differed somewhat from those given to police officers soon after the incident occurred – and admitted that during the ride he sat in the front passenger seat, under which police found a Billy club concealed when they searched the vehicle following the incident.
That same search turned up brass knuckles and a knife concealed under other items in the pocket on the door beside the car’s driver, according to testimony.