Witness in murder trial says trouble was evident

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 11, 2003

[6/11/03]John Jones testified Tuesday he could tell there was going to be trouble when Dean Johnson and Tyrone Jenkins started arguing at noon while standing with others at a gathering place in a north Vicksburg residential area last summer.

“One made a statement, and the other made a statement that conflicted,” Jones told jurors, adding that the subject was a woman. “After I saw it was heated so hot, I took my son and said, Come on, let’s go.'”

The third day of a trial for Jenkins, 28, and his brother, Kevin, 33, was under way today in the Warren County Courthouse. Other testimony is indicating Kevin was driving his vehicle eight hours later on June 5 when Tyrone started shooting out the window at Johnson, who was 21. At some point, the pursuit changed to a foot race before Johnson was chased down and shot to death in the yard of a Ford Road home.

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Assistant District Attorney John Bullard told jurors in his opening argument before Judge Isadore Patrick that Tyrone Jenkins let the argument “grow in him to the point of just a hatred.” He wants the brothers convicted of murder.

Arguing for Tyrone, defense attorney James Penley is expected to say Tyrone was provoked. Kevin Jenkins’ attorney, Eugene Perrier, said his client, a self-employed Army veteran of eight years, had been at work that day and was simply giving his brother the ride he had requested to their mother’s home on Williams Street, which is down the street from where the shooting took place.

Both defendants were taken into custody after a Vicksburg police officer spotted Kevin Jenkins’ vehicle and followed it to department headquarters, Bullard said.

“Tyrone Jenkins said that it was him they wanted, that his brother didn’t have anything to do with it,” Perrier said of the brothers’ surrender to police.

Testimony in the trial was expected to take four days.

Vicksburg Police were called when the noon argument erupted and Patrolman Jackie Johnson testified that he found no one in the bench area, but that he did locate Tyrone Jenkins, who was walking in the neighborhood less than an hour later.

Tyrone Jenkins’ forehead was scratched above his left eye, and he reported that he had been hit with a brick by Dean Johnson near the benches, the officer testified. That report was confirmed by a witness who lived nearby, Johnson added.

“I told him he had the option to file charges,” Johnson said, adding that Jenkins gave no indication of whether he planned to do so. He also said he offered to call an ambulance for Jenkins, but that Jenkins declined the offer. The officer said he also tried to find Dean Johnson, but didn’t.

Homer Lenior, who testified he lived in the neighborhood at the time, said he spoke with Tyrone Jenkins in the early afternoon and tried to defuse what he saw as more violence coming.

“He said like this, One has got to go,'” Lenior said, quoting Jenkins. “He said he couldn’t accept the fact that the man hit him in the face.”

Jenkins then drove in his own vehicle to near the midpoint of Ford Road, where Johnson and family members were discussing their plans to leave early the next morning for a family reunion in Texas, said Timmie Jones, who said he is married to a cousin of Johnson’s. Jones said he saw Jenkins stop his pickup and exit it, displaying a weapon.

“I told him, We’ve got kids out here, man, don’t shoot or nothing,'” he said, adding that Johnson ran under Jones’ raised house and escaped to the northwest.

It was after a group had reformed there later that day that Kevin Jenkins’ vehicle approached the house slowly from the north on Ford Road, stopping close enough for a shell casing from one of three shots Jones said was subsequently fired into the crowd by Tyrone Jenkins to hit Jones’ wife on the arm, Jones said.

Tyrone Jenkins fired at Johnson about three times near Timmie Jones’ home, around the midpoint of Ford Road, Jones said.

“I didn’t hear shots for a while,” Jones said. “Then I heard the last shot and saw him get in the truck and leave.”