Cases Bound To Grand Jury In Bessie Smith Strut Shooting

Judge Hears Day-Long Proof Against Taylor, Beasley

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Rheubin Taylor II, attorney Stewart Jenkins and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor. Click to enlarge.
Rheubin Taylor II, attorney Stewart Jenkins and County Attorney Rheubin Taylor. Click to enlarge.
- photo by John Wilson

Charges were bound to the Grand Jury Wednesday against Rheubin Taylor II and Timothy Beasley in connection with the fatal shooting after last year's Bessie Smith Strut.

Judge William Brewer of Maryville, after hearing a day of proof, said there was ample evidence to send cases to the Grand Jury against both defendants.

He said, "What is clear is that a senseless tragedy occurred at the corner of 10th and Foster streets on June 9, 2003. It is a tragedy that affects many lives and will continue to do so."

He said there was proof enough to bind it over "regardless of who fired the first shot, which is certainly in dispute."

Bonds remain the same for Taylor and Beasley, who are free on bond in the case in which Tory Hardy was killed and two others wounded.

Prosecutor Mike Taylor of Rhea County said the proof indicated that the people who were shot were hit by bullets fired by Taylor, son of County Attorney Rheubin Taylor. He said, "But it really doesn't make any difference." He said both defendants are guilty of the charges because they "engaged in a gunbattle in a public street in the middle of a crowd."

He said Taylor "just shot out the window into the crowd" without aiming at anyone in particular.

Attorney Stewart Jenkins said Taylor was acting in self defense, saying an angry crowd was coming after him.

"He is entitled to respond to save his life. If he had not, he likely would have been killed," the attorney said.

Attorney Jenkins said there was no proof that bullets from the Taylor weapon struck anyone. He said Beasley had snuck up behind the Taylor car and fired several shots toward him, and he said there may have been other shooters at the crowded scene.

Attorney Robin Flores, representing Beasley, said Taylor was acting recklessly - at first with his car and later with the gun. He said Beasley shot to protect himself.

The state finished its proof at mid-afternoon in the case in which Taylor and Beasley face charges of aggravated assault, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment.

Witnesses said the incident began at 10th and Foster when Taylor was trying to drive away in his Chevrolet Caprice, but people were in his way.

He became upset and, after a crowd came toward him, he pulled a gun, then fired five shots. Beasley, who was in the crowd, also fired shots in the direction of the Caprice, it was testified. There was conflict about who fired first.

Two shooting victims testified, including Ronald Harris, who said the shooting incident happened shortly after police had broken up a fight nearby.

He said a white car came up and almost hit a teen named "Delo" (Dominique Montgomery) who was in the middle of the road.

After Taylor "shot a bird," a group of young males angrily approached his vehicle, it was testified.

Harris, who was 15 at the time, said words were exchanged, then the crowd moved back when Taylor produced a gun. He said he began running on Foster Street, and he slumped to the pavement when he was shot. The bullet went in the upper chest and came out under his right arm.

Harris said in his first statement to police that Beasley did not have a gun during the incident. He later said Beasley had gotten a gun from Doug Holmes.

Victor Freeman, 20, said he saw Holmes, Harris, Hardy and Beasley near 10th and Foster. He said the Taylor car came swerving toward a group, and "we got upset. We had words with the driver. He had words back."

Freeman said he saw Taylor reach down and, "Everybody yelled, 'He's got a gun.'"

He said Taylor shouted, "Back up! Back up!" and he stuck a gun out the window and started shooting.

Freeman said he was shot in the leg, but he said he was able to go over to where Tory Hardy was lying in the street. He said he grabbed his head and then saw him close his eyes. He said Harris was lying nearby.

Freeman said he went to Erlanger Medical Center to check on the condition of Hardy. He said Beasley was there also. He said Beasley became upset when he (Freeman) told someone that Tory Hardy had died. He said Beasley stated, "Don't say that. Don't say that."

Peter Turk, the first police officer on the scene, said Tory Hardy "appeared unconscious and unresponsive." He said Harris was lying down with his eyes closed, but was talking.

Police Investigator Jason Irvin said he went to the home of Rheubin Taylor Sr. and II on Hemphill Circle early the next morning after the shooting - around 2 a.m. He said he saw bullet holes in the Caprice.

He said Taylor II told officers he and his sister and girlfriend had been fired on at the Strut. He said Taylor Sr. then told him to tell "what really happened."

Taylor II then said he had "fired a gun back at people who were hollering and shooting at me."

Taylor II said a group had charged his car and fired at his vehicle. He said he then reached under the floorboard for his father's Smith & Wesson 357.

Investigator Irvin said, "He said he didn't really look where he was shooting. He was firing out the window."

He said Taylor II said his car hit several other vehicles as he was hurrying to leave - going down King Street over to MLK Boulevard.

The investigator said he was given the Taylor gun, and it had five spent shells and one live round.

On cross-examination, Investigator Irvin said it was Rheubin Taylor Sr. who made a 911 call, saying his children had been involved in an incident.

There were three bullets retrieved from the Taylor car, including a projectile found near the dashboard. Two shots hit the driver's door, another hit between the windows on the driver's side and a fourth grazed the hood.

It was testified that the Rossi 38 Special used by Beasley that night was retrieved from a residence on Shipp Avenue on July 2, 2003. He had sold it to another individual for $100.

A tape was played of an interview of Beasley by Det. Bill Phillips. Beasley said when the commotion broke out that he got a gun from Doug Holmes. He said Taylor "started shooting and I shot back."

Beasley said he then started running, and he said Tory Hardy was just behind him and once grabbed him by the back of the shirt.

Beasley said he continued running, and then gave the gun back to Holmes. He said a girl named Dominque then gave him a ride to his house on S. Holtzclaw. He said he got a call that Tory Hardy had been shot, so he went on to the hospital, then was told he had died.

Douglas Holmes said the Taylor vehicle "almost hit somebody and it made everybody turn around." He said Taylor then had a pistol out the window. He said Taylor shot first and Beasley "shot back in defense."

Holmes said he had brought the gun to the Strut "for protection." He said he hid it in a fence during the Strut, then got it afterwards.

Michael Little said he went to the Strut with Hardy, Holmes and a youth named Carlos. He said he saw Taylor pointing the gun out the window, and he claimed he (Taylor) fired the first shot.

He said Tory Hardy was three or four steps ahead of him, and he saw him fall. He said Tory Hardy "was like fluttering. I tried to talk to him, but he couldn't talk. Blood and stuff started coming out of his nose."

He said Tory Hardy and Ronald Harris "were lying like head to head."

Kenneth Lamar Alexander said after Taylor drove fast toward a group leaving the Strut that "we were ready to fight him" and the group "started talking crazy to him." He said someone yelled "Take it" - referring to the Taylor car.

Antonio Davenport said it was Beasley who fired first, shooting three times before Taylor fired back.

Investigator Chad Rowe said he was doing a gun residue test on Rheubin Taylor II, who told him not to bother with the left hand because "I shot with the right hand."

Craig Johnson, who heads the Crime Scene Unit, said bullet fragments from the body of Tory Hardy were too small to be of any value.

He said four weapons were tested, and that all projectiles that were of value were traced back to either the Taylor or Beasley gun - not to any other weapon.

Shooting victim Ronald Harris testified
Shooting victim Ronald Harris testified
- photo by John Wilson

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