You must read Part 1 before you read this post. It's a rule. The rest of us will wait here patiently.
About time! We've been waiting like forever.
In this post, I'm going to present the eyewitness testimony of the people who had a good look at the shooter. All of these eye-witnesses gave statements immediately after the shooting. None of them had any bias for or against Troy Davis or Sylvester Coles. None of them, for that matter, could identify either person as being at the scene that night, at least initially. They all tell a consistent story. Part of that consistent story is that the shooter wore a white shirt.
Are you ready for some signed statements?
The Homeless Beer Purchaser
We begin our examination of the early, uncorrupted eye-witness evidence by considering the initial statement of Larry Young. As you recall, Larry Young was the homeless gentleman who was harassed over a beer by the man in the yellow shirt. I first provide the summary of his statement from Judge Moore's 2010 decision.
At 3:10 a.m. on August 19, 1989, the police obtained a statement from Mr. Young concerning the MacPhail shooting. Mr. Young informed the police that, during the early hours of August 19, 1989, he was sitting in the Burger King parking lot drinking beer with his girlfriend, Ms. Murray. When the couple drank their last beer, Mr. Young went to the Time-Saver convenience store to get more beer. As Mr. Young was returning, an African-American male wearing a yellow t-shirt began asking him for one of the beers that Mr. Young just purchased. When Mr. Young informed the individual that he could not have a beer, the individual began using foul language toward Mr. Young.
As Mr. Young continued walking back toward the Burger King, the individual in the yellow t-shirt followed him, continuing the verbal altercation. As he approached the Burger King parking lot, Mr. Young noticed a second African-American male slipping through the fence separating the convenience store parking lot from the Trust Company Bank property. Soon, Mr. Young realized that he was being followed by a third individual. [I ignored the third individual in my crime scenes, since he did not participate in the assault or the shooting.]
As Mr. Young entered the Burger King parking lot, he observed Ms. Murray and two gentlemen sitting with her quickly get up and flee the area. Mr. Young now realized that he was cornered and resumed arguing with the individual in the yellow t-shirt. As Mr. Young was focused on the individual in the yellow t-shirt, he was hit in the head by a second person. A stunned and fearful Mr. Young ran toward the Burger King drive-through window, seeking help. When he was at the window, Mr. Young heard one gunshot, which caused him to duck for cover behind a van waiting at the window. Eventually, he ran to the building's front entrance and entered the building.
Mr. Young informed the police that the individual in the yellow t-shirt was around twenty to twenty-one years old, five feet nine inches tall, and one hundred and fifty-eight pounds. The individual had short hair, no facial hair, and lighter brown skin. When describing his clothes, Mr. Young stated that the yellow t-shirt was a tank-top and that the individual was wearing "lam" pants. Mr. Young stated that he definitely recognized the individual in the yellow t-shirt.
Mr. Young described the individual who assaulted him as about twenty-two to twenty-three years old, five feet eleven inches tall, and one hundred and seventy-two pounds. Mr. Young could not remember the individual's facial features or skin color, but believed that he might be able to recognize him if he saw him again He did state that the individual was wearing a white hat and a white t-shirt with "some kind of print on it."
Mr. Young could not remember anything about the third individual because that person was only in the background and was not directly involved in the altercation.
On August 19, 1989, the police showed Mr. Young a photo array of individuals and asked him if he recognized anyone who was involved in his assault. Mr. Young incorrectly identified the individual he was arguing with, but stated that he was not sure. A few days later, however, Mr. Young realized his error when he saw Mr. Coles in person at the police station. After seeing Mr. Coles, Mr. Young identified him as the man he was arguing with.
I distrust Young's identification of Sylvester Coles as the man in the yellow shirt, since that ID was given only after the police decided who would be the winner and who would be the loser in the death-by-needle lottery.
Here's what Amnesty International has to say about Larry Young's testimony.
Larry Young was the homeless man who was accosted and then struck in the face, and whose shouts drew the attention of Officer McPhail. At the trial, he implicated Troy Davis as the man who had assaulted him, but only identifying him by his clothing. His affidavit, signed in 2002, offers further evidence of a coercive police investigation into the murder of their fellow officer, and states that he "couldn’t honestly remember what anyone looked like or what different people were wearing"."After I was assaulted that night, I went into the bathroom at the bus station and tried to wash the blood off my face. I had a big gash on my face and there was blood everywhere. I was in a lot of pain. When I left the bathroom, some police officers grabbed me and threw me down on the hood of the police car and handcuffed me. They treated me like a criminal, like I was the one who killed the officer.
Even though I was homeless at that time and drinking and drugging, I didn’t have nothing to do with killing the officer. I told the officers that, but they just locked me in the back of the police car for the next hour or so. I kept yelling that I needed to be treated but they didn’t pay me no mind. They then took me to the police station and interrogated me for three hours. I kept asking them to treat my head, but they wouldn’t.
They kept asking me what had happened at the bus station, and I kept telling them that I didn’t know. Everything happened so fast down there. I couldn’t honestly remember what anyone looked like or what different people were wearing. Plus, I had been drinking that day, so I just couldn’t tell who did what. The cops didn’t want to hear that and kept pressing me to give them answers. They made it clear that we weren’t leaving until I told them what they wanted to hear. They suggested answers and I would give them what they wanted. They put typed papers in my face and told me to sign them. I did sign them without reading them.
I never have been able to make sense of what happened that night. It’s as much a blur now as it was then."
I believe that Larry Young was in fact treated roughly by frenzied police, but I'm not compelled by his later claims that he only said what the police wanted him to say. When he gave his initial statement, the police did not have the name of either Troy Davis or Sylvester Coles. They had no story to insist upon.
The Homeless Girlfriend
The Homeless Girlfriend
Recall that Harriet Murray was Larry Young's girlfriend. She waited at the Burger King parking lot as Larry went to get some more beer. She saw the crime unfold and play out, from beginning to end. Here's what Judge Moore had to say about her initial statement.
At 2:27 a.m. on August 19, 1989, Ms. Harriet Murray provided the police with a statement concerning the MacPhail shooting. In the early hours of August 19, 1989, Ms. Murray was sitting in front of the Burger King restaurant with Mr. Larry Young. Mr. Young went to the nearby convenience store to purchase cigarettes and beer. While Mr. Young was returning from the store to the Burger King parking lot, Ms. Murray noticed that he was arguing with another individual, who was following him. Ms. Murray also noticed two other individuals, approaching from the direction of the Trust Company Bank building, who were following Mr. Young.
Walking away from the individuals, Mr. Young repeatedly told the group that he was not going to fight them. Ms. Murray heard one individual tell Mr. Young not to walk away and threaten to shoot him. The individual then started digging down his shirt. As the three individuals converged on Mr. Young, one produced a gun. Unaware of the weapon, Mr. Young continued to walk away from the trio. As Mr. Young approached a van parked at the Burger King drive-through window, the armed individual struck Mr. Young in the head with what Ms. Murray believed was the butt of the weapon. Mr. Young then fled toward the drive-through window, and began beating on the van and the window, asking for someone to call the police.
Next, Ms. Murray observed a police officer approaching the three individuals, who were now fleeing, telling them to 'hold it." As the officer closed to within five feet, the individual with the firearm turned and aimed the weapon at the officer. The weapon did not discharge when the individual first pulled the trigger. As the officer reached for his gun, the individual shot him in the face.
Wounded, the officer fell to the ground, at which point the gunman fired two or three additional rounds at the officer and then continued running. Ms. Murray then found Mr. Young and assisted him in tending to his head wound. Ms. Murray described the gunman as having medium-colored skin with a narrow face, high cheekbones, and a fade-away haircut. She estimated him to be between twenty-four to thirty years old, four inches taller than the officer, and approximately one hundred and thirty pounds. Ms. Murray recalls the gunman as wearing a white shirt and dark colored pants.
Ms. Murray was shown a photo array the night of the shooting, but could not identify the gunman. Several days later, the police showed her a second photo array, from which she identified Mr. Davis as the man who hit Mr. Young and shot the officer.
And here's what Amnesty International had to say about Harriet Murray.
A third witness who has contradicted her trial testimony is Harriet Murray. Murray, who was also homeless at the time, was with her friend Larry Young on the night of the crime. Her various statements given to the police, at the preliminary hearing, at the trial, and in an affidavit signed on 14 October 2002 are inconsistent. According to Troy Davis’s federal appeals, Harriet Murray’s police statement and her testimony at the preliminary hearing appear to implicate Sylvester Coles. At the subsequent trial she identified Troy Davis as the gunman, but was not asked and did not say whether the man who followed Larry Young, harassed him and attacked him was the same person who shot the police officer. In her 2002 affidavit, she did not identify Troy Davis as the shooter. This was consistent with a statement she gave to police after the crime, in which she simply stated that she had witnessed "a black man" accost Larry Young and hit him on side of the face with his gun. She said she saw the same man subsequently shoot the police officer. She said that she had also seen "two other black men" nearby but they were "not right up with Larry and the other man".
Once again, I intend to rely on the statement Harriet Murray gave the police soon after the shooting. Once again, I reject any photo identification made only after the police decided they wanted Davis to die for the murder of their fellow officer.
The Burger King Employee
The Burger King Employee
Antoine Williams had just arrived for work at Burger King. He saw it all go down, albiet through heavily tinted windows. First from Judge Moore's summary.
At 3:22 a.m. on August 19, 1989, the police took a statement from Mr. Antoine Williams concerning the MacPhail shooting. At about 1:00 a.m. that morning, Mr. Williams was pulling into the Burger King parking lot to begin his shift at the restaurant. As he was parking, he noticed three men following one individual, who was walking across Fahm Street toward the Burger King parking lot. As they drew closer, Mr. Williams could tell that two of the individuals were arguing. He overheard the individual being followed say that he did not want to fight anyone and that the three others should go back to where they were. As the group came between his car and the drive-through window, one of the individuals ran up and slapped the man being followed in the head with a gun.
When Mr. Williams looked the other way, he saw a police officer coming from behind a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through window. The officer was running towards the individual with the firearm. The two unarmed individuals were already running away, and the individual with the gun was trying to stick it back in his pants. According to Mr. Williams, the assailant appeared to panic as the officer was approaching and he was unable to conceal the gun. When the officer closed to within approximately fifteen feet, the assailant turned and shot the officer. After falling to the ground, it appeared that the officer was trying to regain his footing when the gunman shot him three more times. After firing the fourth shot, the gunman fled from the scene.
Mr. Williams described the gunman as approximately twenty to twenty-three years old, six feet two inches to six feet four inches tall, and one hundred and eighty pounds. Mr. Williams believed that the gunman was wearing a blue or white t-shirt, and dark jeans. He explained that the dark shade of tint on his car's windows may have affected his ability to distinguish the exact color of the gunman's t-shirt. Mr. Williams then described the gun used in the shooting as a rusty, brownish colored revolver. Mr. Williams did state that he believed he could identify the gunman if he saw him again. When asked to describe the other three individuals, Mr. Williams could not provide any details because he was focused on the gunman.
Now from Amnesty International's report.
Antoine Williams, an employee of Burger King, had just driven into the restaurant’s car park at the time the shooting occurred. At the trial, he identified Troy Davis as the person who had shot Officer McPhail. In 2002 he stated that this was false, and that he had signed a statement for the police which he could not and did not read.
"I couldn’t really tell what was going on because I had the darkest shades of tint you could possibly have on my windows of my car. As soon as I heard the shot and saw the officer go down, I ducked down under the dash of my car. I was scared for my life and I didn’t want to get shot myself… Later that night, some cops asked me what had happened. I told them what is written here [in the affidavit]. They asked me to describe the shooter and what he looked like and what he was wearing. I kept telling them that I didn’t know. It was dark, my windows were tinted, and I was scared. It all happened so fast. Even today, I know that I could not honestly identify with any certainty who shot the officer that night. I couldn’t then either. After the officers talked to me, they gave me a statement and told me to sign it. I signed it. I did not read it because I cannot read. At Troy Davis’ trial, I identified him as the person who shot the officer. Even when I said that, I was totally unsure whether he was the person who shot the officer. I felt pressured to point at him because he was the one who was sitting in the courtroom. I have no idea what the person who shot the officer looks like."
The Van Full of People
After Larry Young was pistol-whipped, he stumbled against a van making its way through the Burger King drive-through. That van was full of witnesses. I'll give just Judge Moore's summary for some of them below.
At 5:20 a.m. on August 19, 1989, the police took a statement concerning the MacPhail shooting from United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Lolas. Lt. Col. Lolas informed the police that at approximately 1:01 a.m. he was lying down in the back seat of a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through window when a man started banging on the vehicle, asking for the police. As he was rising from the seat, Lt. Col. Lolas heard one gunshot, quickly followed by two additional shots. Turning toward the direction of the gunshots, Lt. Cal. Lolas saw someone in a striped jumpsuit running toward the front of the Burger King.
Then, Lt. Col. Lolas focused on an individual in a white t-shirt, whose arm was surrounded by smoke. After firing the shots, the gunman fled to the northwest. Lt. Col. Lolas stated that he had no doubt that the individual in the white t-shirt was the shooter. Lt. Col. Lolas never saw the shooter's face, but described him as an African-American male, approximately six feet tall, and around one hundred and seventy pounds. The shooter was wearing a white t-shirt with very dark pants.
At 5:49 a.m. on August 19, 1989, Mr. Matthew Hughes provided the police with a statement concerning the MacPhail shooting. Mr. Hughes was seated directly behind the driver's seat in a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through when an individual came up to the driver's side window. Mr. Hughes could not hear what the man was saying, but noticed a severe cut over his right eye. Next, Mr. Hughes heard a pop from the direction of the parking lot. He did not think much of it until the other passengers told him there was something going on in the parking lot. As Mr. Hughes turned to look, he heard two more popping sounds. Once he was facing the direction of the sounds, he saw an African-American male in a light colored t-shirt standing over the body of a white individual. After the shooting, the African-American male ran toward the Trust Company Bank building.
Mr. Hughes described the individual in the light colored t-shirt as an African-American male with a slender to medium build, approximately five feet seven inches to five feet nine inches tall. The individual wore dark shorts, a light colored baseball cap, and a light colored t-shirt, with either short or no sleeves. Mr. Hughes also saw a second individual running toward the Trust Company Bank building, who was much closer to that building than the man in the light colored t-shirt. This individual was skinny, dressed in all dark clothes, and appeared to be carrying a gym bag.
At 5:57 a.m. on August 19, 1989, the police obtained a statement from Mr. Eric Riggins concerning the MacPhail shooting. Mr. Riggins was seated in the second row, behind the driver's seat, in a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through window when an individual came to the driver's side window calling for someone to phone the police. After a few seconds passed, Mr. Riggins heard a single gunshot. Turning toward the direction of the gunshot, Mr. Riggins observed a man falling to the ground. An individual, standing five feet from the man on the ground, raised his hand and fired two more shots. Mr. Riggins recalls that the gunman never completely stopped running to fire the shots and fled towards the Trust Company Bank building.
Mr. Riggins described the shooter as a slim, African-American male, approximately five feet ten inches tall and one hundred and sixty pounds. The gunman was wearing a light colored shirt, dark shorts, and a baseball cap, the color of which Mr. Riggins could not recall. Beyond the shooter, Mr. Riggins saw a second, taller male running towards the Trust Company Bank building.
At 6:10 a.m. on August 19, 1989, Mr. Steven Hawkins provided the police with a statement concerning the MacPhail shooting. Mr. Hawkins was seated in the middle of the third row of a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through window when an individual came up to the driver's side window asking for someone to call the police. Soon thereafter, Mr. Hawkins heard three popping sounds from the parking lot. Turning to look in the direction of the noise, Mr. Hawkins saw an African-American teenager, who was skinny, approximately six feet tall, and was wearing a white shirt with black shorts or pants, running across the parking lot.
At 5:15 a.m. on August 19, 1989, the police obtained a statement from Mr. Stephen Sanders concerning the MacPhail shooting. Mr. Sanders was seated in a van waiting at the Burger King drive-through window when he observed one African-American male strike another African-American male in the parking lot. The man who had been hit ran to the van, asking for someone to call the police while banging on the hood of the vehicle. It was at this time that Mr. Sanders heard a gunshot. Turning toward the noise, Mr. Sanders observed an African-American male wearing a white shirt and black shorts standing in front of an individual who was falling forward. The male in the white shirt shot at the individual two more times and then start running, with a second individual in a black outfit, toward the Trust Company Bank building. Mr. Sanders informed the police that he would not be able to recognize the two fleeing men, except by their clothing.
To Be Continued
Tomorrow, in Part 3 of X, I'll give you all the info you will need to figure out who the real killer is.