Shooting victim identified suspect from photo lineup


After police showed a survivor of a 2011 shooting that resulted in the death of a second person more than 60 mugshots, that person identified the man who was on trial Wednesday for the shooting in Jefferson County Circuit Court.

Testifying at the trial of Xavier Thomas, Detective Jacqueline Stevenson said the survivor, Tristan Hunter, then 18, pointed out a picture of Thomas instantly and said “it was like looking at his face.”

Thomas is charged with one count of first-degree murder in the Oct. 25, 2011, death of Henry Paul Fells Jr., 23, and one count of attempted first-degree murder in the shooting of Hunter. He has pleaded not guilty.

Hunter was shown 10 sets of mugshots with six pictures on each set between Oct. 28 and Dec. 12, nine of those sets by Stevenson, the remaining set by Detective Larry Gailey.

When he testified, Gailey said Hunter gave him the nicknames “Zay,” “Nardo” and “Nade” and said that was the person who shot him. Those nicknames were given him by another person Gailey said Hunter didn’t identify at the time.

Only the final set of mugshots contained a photograph of Thomas, Stevenson said.

The shooting was reported at 3311 Palm St., and Stevenson said when she arrived, she found Fells by the doorway of a duplex bleeding from the face and saw Hunter in the yard, also bleeding.

Fells was taken to Jefferson Regional Medical Center by ambulance and pronounced dead by a doctor in the emergency room of a gunshot wound to the face. Hunter was also taken to JRMC where he was treated for a wound to the hip and released.

In addition to the photo identification of Thomas, police were also able to link him to Fells through a cell phone that Fells had after Hunter told police that Fells had received a call from the person that shot them.

Questioned about that by defense attorney Efrem Neely of Little Rock, Stevenson said the phone was in Thomas’ sister’s name, but she had told police he was the one that used it.

Officer Ryan Edwards, the first officer on the scene, said he saw Fells lying in the doorway of the duplex with a gunshot wound to the face and said “his condition wasn’t good.”

Edwards was sent to the area initially to investigate a report of a prowler and while en route, was told that there had been a shooting.

He said when he got to the scene, he was flagged down by “a young black male (later identified as Hunter) yelling that he had been shot.” Hunter also told Edwards that “his friend had been shot.”

Detective Michael Roberts, who was also at the scene, told Deputy Prosecutor Jill Reed he talked to Hunter and was able to get a description that was broadcast to police in the area, who searched unsuccessfully for the person involved.

According to Roberts’ testimony, Hunter said he and Fells were walking down the street when a “light-skinned guy just started shooting.”

Former Police Crime Scene Technician April Davis, who now works for the Arkansas Department of Human Services, testified she recovered clothing from the scene that belonged to Fells, including a jacket, and said a blood trail began at the end of the driveway to the doorway of the duplex, with more blood at the doorway than at the driveway.

She also said there were no shell casings or bullet fragments recovered at the scene, nor was a weapon recovered.

In his opening statement, Chief Deputy Prosecutor Wayne Juneau said the police investigation indicated that Fells and Hunter were at the Sunset Village Apartments at 2611 W. 34th Ave. when Thomas came up, had a conversation with Fells, then pulled out a handgun that he showed to Fells before leaving.

Thomas allegedly came back and had another conversation with Fells before Fells and Hunter started walking to a nearby store, with Thomas allegedly walking behind them.

Thomas then allegedly pulled out a handgun and shot Fells, who ran to the nearby duplex and kicked on the door, then Thomas allegedly shot Hunter before leaving, Juneau said.

In his opening statement, Neely said “there’s no question that there was a murder. The question is, who did it?”

He also questioned Hunter’s identification of Thomas, saying “Hunter doesn’t know who shot him.”

The State Medical Examiner is scheduled to testify when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday. Hunter is also scheduled to testify.

The trial, with Fifth Division Circuit Judge Jodi Raines Dennis presiding, is expected to end Thursday afternoon.

At the time of his arrest, Thomas was on parole after being convicted of two counts of residential burglary and two counts of theft of property in Desha County and had pending charges of committing a terroristic act, two counts of residential burglary and two counts of theft of property from Lincoln County.