A judge dismissed on Tuesday murder charges against a 19-year-old who claimed self defense in a June gas station shootout.
"The detective testified he doesn't know who shot the gun first," Hamilton County General Sessions Court Judge Gary Starnes said. "So what do you do with that?"
D'Kobe Jordan brought a gun to a gas station on the 100 block of Glenwood Drive and shot five rounds into a car during a botched drug deal, prosecutors said. D'Angelo Marshall, 20, died as a result. Jordan and a second man, Michael Benning, 18, were wounded and arrived at two separate hospitals in separate cars.
Benning testified Tuesday that Jordan shot first, but Starnes said the 18-year-old mumbled a lot and didn't appear to want to answer questions. Court records show Jordan told police he paid the driver $100, but then the passenger pulled out a gun, prompting him to pull one out himself and start shooting into the front of the car.
"Mr. Benning, because of his prior character, is the one who fired the first shot," his defense attorney, Hank Hill, said Tuesday. "He was a gun-toting, gang-banging, lots-of-money kind of guy."
Prosecutor Andrew Coyle said he understood the defense's theory about credibility but pointed to video footage that showed Jordan firing several rounds into the vehicle.
Defendants typically aren't entitled to a self-defense theory when engaged in illegal activities such as drug dealing, Coyle said, and Jordan should have known carrying a weapon could result in death.
"I would hang my hat on second-degree murder," he said.
But Starnes said the state hadn't proved a case for criminal homicide or attempted first-degree murder, partly because Chattanooga detective Daryl Slaughter said he couldn't say who fired first.
"Mr. Slaughter was very candid that it seemed like self defense," Hill argued.
"I know there can be circumstantial evidence, but what we've got here is a detective who doesn't know who shot first," Starnes agreed. "I cannot find probable cause to bind these cases over to the grand jury."
Starnes did send Jordan's charge of possession of a firearm with intent to go armed to the grand jury. If grand jurors return an indictment, Jordan's weapons cases will continue to Hamilton County Criminal Court, where he can enter a plea agreement, have the charges dismissed, or go to trial.
His unrelated domestic aggravated assault charge from January was moved to Sept. 11, records show.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.
This story was updated Aug. 1 at 11:20 p.m.